Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bram Stoker's Dracula

(1992) **

I'm happy to say that I succeeded in at least one of my horrorthon goals this year. Goal 1: Don't see anything I've seen before. Goal one: Met with success! Goal 2: Vampire and Werewolf movies only: Possibly met with success. I'm unsure if Attack on the Block counts as werewolf.... I'd like it to count, but if it doesn't then I get a future year of thonning to do the Vampire and Werewolf only challenge. As for Bram Stoker's Dracula, I'm not sure if I would have liked or starred it differently had I seen it when it was new. I found the editing and cinematography stylings more annoying than enjoyable, and Keanu was definitely Keanu. Keanu made Winona Ryder look good in this movie--and really, this was not her best work. Keanu has bugged me in almost everything he's been in since Parenthood. On the other hand, Anthony Hopkins puts in real effort and Gary Oldman just killed it all the way through.


Oldman is a fantastic actor and pretty much saved me from turning off the flick. Overall, I'm glad I saw this since I never had, and I'd heard so many people talk about it, but I think I need to choose better flicks next year...maybe you guys have some recommendations for good intro / horror 101 flicks?

Van Helsing


(2004) *1/2

The first 5-10 minutes of this flick were awesome. I loved it. Black and white, successful capture of the classics. The start of Van Helsing got my expectations up. Way way up. And then it all came tumbling down.., and was awful and boring and just too much of a let down for me to be able to appreciate any of the cliches, or well, to appreciate anything. If only the beginning hadn't been so good! The opening had me geared up for the perfect action horror flick, and then it didn't deliver. The film opens in 1887 with Dr. Frankenstein and Igor bringing their monster to life for the evil Count Dracula.

Dracula in black and white and full of awesomeness

Dracula reveals he wants the monster to bring life to his multitude of undead children, kills Frankenstein, and the monster attempts to escape to a windmill which is quickly burned down by a ravenous mob. The opening closes after the mob flees in fear of Dracula and his 3 flying vampire brides. The movie shifts to color with the introduction of an amnesic Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) in hot pursuit of Jekyll/Hyde and subsequently being prepared by the Knights of the Holy Order to pursue Dracula. Van Helsing is told he his to protect the remaining Valerious siblings, Anna (Kate Beckinsale) and Velkan (Will Kemp) who are the last of a family that swore to kill Dracula whose many generations so far have failed and are stuck in purgatory.

Werewolf in color and lame FX--not full of awesomeness

Lots of action and action movie cliches ensue with just enough werewolf and vampire involvement for me to think this met my requirements for this years horrothon, although, I think I'd say this was definitely an action movie, not a horror flick, despite it's label as a horror film. (see my Dracula review for this years personal horrorthon requirements/goals).

Attack the Block


(2011) *1/2

I was stuck on a plane and this one the only flick that listed itself as horror, so watch it I did. I'd never heard of it, but upon my return to the states it started popping up in all sorts of places, and gets great reviews (a 90 on rotten tomatoes). I'm so confused. I didn't think it was good at all. It was not scary, it was not thrilling, it was not even all that funny. Come to think of it, it was a perfect plane movie where you don't care if its interrupted by the pilot telling you it's unclear how long you're going to be stuck circling in the air awaiting information on which airport is clear for a landing. A London gang (or what seemed like gangster kid wannabes) during a regular evening of mayhem, violence, and crime are distracted while mugging Sam (Jodie Whittaker) as a beast from outer space fireballs down to land like a meterorite nearby. Sam escapes and attempts to get police assistance while Moses (John Boyega), lead's his gang in killing this outer space beast. The thugs carry it back to the safest place they can think of: a drug dealer's grow room in their apartment building. As the night progresses, the block gets attacked (isn't the movie cleverly named) by and more more meteorites and our thug kids are pursued with growing intensity by ferocious alien werewolf creatures whose fur is blacker than black dogs and whose rows of teeth are a glowing blue. The glowing toothed beasts were by far my favorite part of this movie. Check them out:


Blade Trinity


(2004) **1/2

Blade Trinity changes things up a bit. In this episode, although most people remain unaware of vampires, they are now aware of and fearful of Blade, who gets portrayed by the media as a serial killer. Police and FBI pursuit of Blade (possibly assisted/manipulated by vampires) results in Blade's capture during a raid on Whistler and Blade's compound. Luckily Blade is rescued by Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) and Abigail Whistler (Jessica Biel) -- welcome white eye candy of both sexes. Turns out this rescue team is part of a group of vampire hunters referred to as the Nightstalkers who just happen to be working on Daystar, a bioweapon to kill all vampires.
"Drake" who may or may not be Dracula

The Nightstalkers are up against vampires Danica Talos (Parker Posey) and the resurrected first vampire "Drake" (Dominic Purcell). The vampires in this episode not only have better infrastructure (an industrial complex full of comatose humans for a continual blood supply) but also a play to improve the vampire race by turning all Vampires into Daywalkers. The 3rd installation ramped up the action, the eye candy, and the snarky dialogue (mostly delivered by Ryan Reynolds). The special effects definitely hold up better, but that might just be because it was made more recently. The tagline really should have been "Wesley Snipes as Wesley Snipes. Ryan Reynolds as Ryan Reynolds and Parker Posie as Parker Posie.
"

Abduscias 2011 Wrap-up!


Well, it was definitely a blast! I feel that I have slacked a bit with fun activities with Catfreeek in October, but I also had to watch other things to take a breath from horror(Murder She Wrote/Millenium/Miami Vice series). Next year, I will try harder, maybe pick a theme....though I will still go to Salem for Halloween! Hmmm...maybe serial killers or more werewolf movies. I just can't do the vampire thing anymore. I own the majority of the movies I reviewed, though there were quite a few that I skipped(Nightmare on Elm St series, my zombie movies, Dead Girl, Martyrs, other ghosty movies). The others were watched with Catfreeek :) or through Netflix. I took Cat's advice and made a list of my own! It was a PITA using WordPad, next year I will make an Excel spreadsheet...here we go!My favorite movie of the year! I've watched it 4 times :) Great killing scenes/very artistic.
Dumbest/Goofiest movie...not really a horror movie.
Most Disturbing/Disgusting movie. I agree with Catfreeek!(Taxidermia second place)

I'm sorry to say I don't have one for the most scariest movie, perhaps watching Fulci's Zombie at a drive-in when I was 6 or seeing Exorcist, Jaws, Psycho and many other movies at the ages of 6-12 have jaded my fears. That's why its not easy to tell many horror movies from comedies. In my opinion, few of the movies that I reviewed were comedy or mystery. Does a bump on the head qualify it to be horror because Netflix categorized it as so? Hmmph! I wish to hell that we watched Human Centipede 2 in time for this-didn't get the movie until afterwards. :(
I dooooo look forward to next year!

Johnny Sweatpants 2011 Horrorthon Wrap Up: Send in the Clowns!


Before I get to the good stuff, please admire my first attempt at pumpkin carving. It ain’t no Octopumpkin but I was pleased with the result and I also developed a taste for baked pumpkin seeds with soy sauce. Yum!





Aside from mentioning that I Saw the Devil was my favorite horror movie this year I’m going to stick to only clown-themed movies since that was my 2011 focal point. I expected to see some genuine attempts to tap into coulrophobia the way that Clownhouse did so seemingly effortlessly. Alas, many of the psychos turned out to be nothing more than textbook slashers who happened to wear face paint and baggy pants.

Nevertheless, let’s take a look at the nominees!



1) Cheezo the Clown (Clownhouse)
2) Horny the Clown (Drive-Thru)
3) unidentified band member from "The Clowns" (Terror on Tour)
4) Buster the Clown (We All Scream For Ice Cream)
5) The Marvelous Mervo (Blood Feast)
6) Shivers the Clown (Fear of Clowns)
7) dystopian future clown (Let's Visit the World of the Future)
8) giant monster clown (Killer Klowns From Outer Space)
9) Flappy the Clown (Vulgar)
10) Punchy the Clown (Final Draft)
11) Gurdy the Clown (100 Tears)
12) Mr. Jiggles (Mr. Jiggles)
13) clown that 50P said looks like Carrot Top (House of Fears)
14) Dissecto the Clown (Torment)
15) Pennywise the Dancing Clown (It)
16) useless clown (The Clown Murders)

And now for the (slightly modified) categories:

Scariest Clown: Cheezo the Clown (Clownhouse)

Best Looking Clown: Punchy the Clown (Final Draft) I didn’t expect to rank the “hobo clown” the classiest of the bunch but how could I deny that handsome bastard?

Most Badass Clown: Gurdy the Clown (100 Tears). Hand Gurdy his trusty meat cleaver and he’ll chop all of the other clowns to pieces faster than you can throw a pie.

Lamest Evil Clown: The clown from The Clown Murders belongs on a cereal box and Mr. Jiggles was appallingly lame but I have to award this one to Tiny Tim’s Marvelous Mervo in Blood Harvest simply because he had zero kills.

Hidden Gem: Let's Visit the World of the Future

Most Memorable Clown Kill: Pennywise luring sweet little George into the storm drain in Stephen King’s It.

Worst Clown Movie (Ever): Mr. Jingles - I simply don’t know how or why this movie was made. Nobody involved seemed to give two clown shits about it so why bother filming in the first place?

Overall Best Evil Clown Movie Out There: The only films I’d actually recommend are Stephen King’s It, Clownhouse, Let’s Visit the World of the Future and 100 Tears. Out of these I crown 100 Tears the king of killer clown movies. I loved it so much that I watched it 5 times, once with commentary!

Conclusion: I sifted through a lot of crap but I’d like to think that the whole experiment taught me a thing or two about life. For one thing I learned that while evil clowns such as the Joker made their mark in the past, the killer clown movie genre did not really exist until 2006-2008 when it suddenly and inexplicably became a “thing”. I also learned that… actually I didn't learn anything at all and probably forgot some important things along the way. Still I regret nothing!

As we’re nearing December I find myself going through evil clown withdrawal, so much so that I rented Shakes the Clown last week. It’s not a horror movie but it is a hoot, mainly because of its amusing take on clown culture. Did you know that the mime is the natural enemy of the clown?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Blade II


(2002) *1/2

I feel like I could review this by just writing "See review for blade 1, more of the same." Blade II takes place a few years after the conclusion of the first movie. Blade and his new friend/assistant, Scud (Norman Reedus) continue the work of protecting humans and hunting vampires while also searching for his missing mentor Whistler (don't worry, Kris Kristofferson reappears at some point in the movie). This movie introduces new vampire villains and a new vampire breed referred to as Reapers. Reapers are stronger than regular vampires, have a more insatiable thirst, and their victims turn into Repears (nice touch of vampire-zombie lore remix).

Insane dislocating multi-jaw and sucker mouth of Reapers

The plot thickens (slightly) when the vampire elders ask Blade for a truce, resulting in Blade teaming with the group of vampires (including Ron Perlman) originally intended to hunt and kill Blade. The movie includes standard off the shelf plot points in attempting to create intrigue, however I found most of the vampire politics, hidden agendas, duplicitous allies/enemies plot devices transparent and predictable.

some CGI improved, some didn't

Again I probably would have liked it more had I seen it when it first came out. Blade II, much like the first, does not stand the test of time. It has a few nice action sequences and the effects definitely improved relative to the first movie, but I was still pretty bored when watching it.

Blade

(1998) *1/2
Apologies for the delayed continuance of my participation in writing up my reviews. My peace offering consists of the fact that I followed Octo's suggestion that someone take one for the team and watch the Blade movies this October. Blade is much more of an action flick than a horror flick. I remember wanting to see Blade when it came out (I'll admit to a Wesley Snipes crush--which somehow still holds nostagilcally when I rewatch Demolition man).

Bloody vampire during the in the bloodrave

In the movie, Blade is born as his mother is dying in a hospital after a vampire attack vampire and retains features of both beings (thirst of a vampire, sun, silver, and garlic friendliness of a human). Befriended by Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) Blade becomes a hybrid day-walking vampire hunter both to avenge his mother's death and to protect all non vampire familiar humans. Whistler creates a treatment to keep Blade's bloodlust at bay as well as lovely custom weapons that were a visual highlight in the movie (the blood bath rave was also visually stimulating). All told, I was disappointed that the CGI and special effects didn't really hold up. The now "old school" fight scene and action sequence coreography was nice to see again, despite how the movie dragged in the middle.

CGI has come a long way since 1998



Monday, November 28, 2011

Crystal Math's 2011 Horrorthon Wrap-Up



(2011) *****
KISS my math!
I waltzed into Horrorthon with the idea of reviewing Mel Gibson's Apocalypto to discuss indigenous rights, global imperialism and cultural homogenization as an aspect of horror.
even the film is an example of cultural imperialism
BUT!

After much contemplation and a thorough interpretation/analysis of the rules of H-Thon, I decided against it. In determining what makes the horror movie genre work so well, I concluded that there's a difference between the Scary and the Horrifying. Paranormal forces, zombies, evil children's toys and malicious clowns are Scary – they jump out at us and make us scream, but we know they could never really exist (right?). Conversely, realities that include kidnapping, torture, rape, etc. are Horrifying to me because they are tangible; I know that people experience it outside of a movie set, and some encounter it on a frequent basis. The movies I enjoyed least this year had more to do with the harsh realities they depicted than their message. Why am I telling you this?? Because the most difficult and least enjoyable movie I watched this year happened to be an undisputed favorite among H-Thon bloggers.
Martyrs is the type of movie you tell someone to watch “if you wanna see some fucked-up shit,” knowing full well they'll take your word for it, watch it, then never speak to you again (well maybe that last part isn't quite true). Even though it was mentally and emotionally draining to compose a coherent review and publish it for all to see, I'm glad that I didn't wait until the end to post it because I wouldn't want to end on a sour, joyless note. Blood Harvest embodied the level of escapism that I wanted to experience during the month of October and then Martyrs yanked me back into a world o' hurt that I'd wanted to [temporarily] forget. I have to thank JSP for being the type of person who compulsively composes lists of music, books, etc.; he had a post-Martyrs lineup that helped bring me out of a depressed mood. Watching Re-Animator after that might have been the most awkward segue yet, but it kept me going.
Who's going to argue with a decapitated-but-living head? Answer: NO BODY!
Before I begin the actual “wrap-up” part of my Wrap-Up, I wanted to share some number-crunching I did while hearing about the legendary Catfreeek's horrorthon-thon. I'll admit that I can't imagine watching more than an average of one movie per day in any given month, and this year Abduscias almost hit the 100 mark! Cat came in a close second with 92 – but let's see if they're not actually falling short of their true potential (if I had a mustache I would be stroking it thoughtfully right now):

24 hours per day – 6 hours (sleep) – 2 hours (eat, shit, write reviews) = 16 hrs per day to watch movies.

Assuming the average horror movie is 2 hours, this allows (8 movies/day) x (31 days/Oct) = 248 movies!

Following the 2 reviews per day limit means that, after the month of October, you would still have to publish 176 reviews (248 – 2[31] = 176). Everyone knows 176 = 16 x 11, so to be sure you make the deadline you can either publish 16 reviews per day for 11 days OR 11 reviews per day for the next 16 days.

To conclude this report, I give my best to Catfreeek and Abs – you're off to a good start, kids!

NOW, without further ado, here are my top categories for My First Horrorthon Wrap-Up:
Favorite Movie: Rosemary's Baby

Hidden Gem: 100 Tears

Worst: We All Scream for Ice Cream 
Watching this movie was like pulling teeth; writing the review was like putting them back in, backwards and upside down.

So Bad It's Good: 
(None. If they were just bad, they stayed bad. I wouldn't even credit Blood Harvest with this special title because it was predictable, forgettable and JSP seeks to perfect his Tiny Tim impression every time we're together in public. Maybe next year?)

Most Disturbing: Martyrs  
I'd be crazy not to mention it somewhere. Even though I didn't want to publish it because I knew it'd be contrary to what everyone else has said about it, I'm happy to stand by my view and even happier that everyone was willing to read and accept my different opinion.

Goriest: Human Centipede 2 [Full Sequence]  
Made even more entertaining to watch with JSP and 50P! Thanks for a memorable night guys.

Scariest: Insidious  
I actually had to call JSP away from folding laundry to sit next to me. I think I gave him an Indian Burn from my fear.

Memorable Death: The Wickerman (Wickerpersyn)
Why, Sgt. Howie, of course! I always like seeing religious stiffies get stiffed.

Best Lookin' Monster: The Man with Fire on his Face from Insidious!

Avoidable Death: Torment 
Right before R gets murdered with his own barstool, L could have easily said, “omfg babe look behind you!” But noooooooooooooooo... I think she wanted him to die.

Funniest: Re-Animator
By a long shot, too -- I almost tied this one up with Teeth because I enjoyed it as a work of satire; but Re-Animator just holds up better to a diverse audience as something equally creepy, crazy, and totally laughable.


Torment

(2008) **


It took me two or three attempts before watching this movie (unenthusiastically) in its entirety. Laura and Roy (credited as Lauren and Ray on the imdb website, and as Laura and Roy on Netflix; since there can be no consensus I will just refer to them as R and L) are a couple overcoming L's recent discharge from a mental hospital and decide to get away for the weekend in a cabin that R owns.

Along the way R and L can be seen bickering over the little things, and it really bugged me that R would repeatedly blame L's hallucinations of evil stalking clowns on her emotional and mental vulnerabilities. Throughout the movie he talks to her in a condescending tone and doesn't offer any constructive solutions – like, say, let's leave the isolated cabin for the comfort of a bustling city? I don't have any experience with looking after someone who had spent time in a hospital, but I would never, EVER:
a) leave them alone, unsupervised, and/or
2) dismiss their paranoia as a handicap, and/or
iii) undermine their decisions for not wanting to go somewhere or do something WITHOUT offering an alternative choice.



That being said, let's move on to Dissecto the Clown!


Genderless and wearing a Jay Leno mask done up with clown paint, this badass doesn't show any remorse for killing people. More methodical than Gerdy the clown from 100 Tears, Dissecto is void of any background knowledge other than acquiring a home in the middle of nowhere as well as shiny tools with which to pick people apart. The ending was cryptic and unexpected, but because Dissecto was so darn entertaining to watch I'm bumping this one up to 2 stars from my original 1.5.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Monsters

2010 ****3/4

I watched this in March because it was announced that director Gareth Edwards would helm next year's attempt at another western Godzilla movie. I liked it a lot and decided to screen it again for Horrorthon. The second time around it struck an even deeper chord, probably because I watched a few regular monster movies a few days before. I'll let the opening text speak for itself.




The story opens in a Central American city the morning after a night of monster attacks. Helicopters are constantly flying overhead. In the distance are plumes of smoke rising against the blue sky. Tanks clank down the street. It will be a long time before the movie shows you a monster, but their presence is felt everywhere, every second.



Against this backdrop, American photojournalist Andew Kaulder is asked to check on Samantha Wynden, the daughter of his newspaper's owner, as she was in a hotel that was damaged the night before. Once he finds her, he's tasked with an offer he can't refuse, even though he wants to: make sure she gets home safe.

The first leg of their journey is the more civilized part, as they make their way to the border town just south of the Infected Zone. It's a hodgepodge of rides on trains, buses and in the backs of pickup trucks. The two travelers develop an awkward but positive chemistry with each other, and the looming presence of the creatures is felt everywhere in the background hum.

This is especially impressive considering that every second of footage was shot on location, often using extras who were the people around at the time. The brooding mood was dropped in afterwards, with the help of sharp editing, clever use of special effects and a haunting soundtrack. At one point in the early part of the journey, they show something that just cut me to the quick:

This crappy street mural is seen briefly in the background, but in those few seconds the movie hits a note of realism no other giant monster movie has ever reached, and I say that with some authority. I saw that and I thought "Of course!" If there really were giant monsters walking around, the monumental change they would bring would permeate all corners of human experience. The culture would be forever changed.

Yet, brilliantly, Monsters shows how life goes on. Sam asks a taxi driver how he can live where he does, and if he feels safe. He says "What can I do? My work, my family is here. It happens about once a year, we take our chances."

When the opportunity to get Sam on the ferry home falls through, Kaulder arranges to illegally cross the Infected Zone with her. As the journey moves from areas of bustling human activity to the quiet, overgrown jungle of "their" territory, the change in tone is palpable. Any odd sound might be the sign of total disaster, and the evidence of past conflict can still be found everywhere. Only this time, it's clearer who won.

Monsters is a wonderful mood piece that balances the two characters' quirky relationship with a setting that is deliciously laden with portent. The only reason it doesn't get the full five stars is a slight failure to reach its own amazingly sculpted potential. This comes about two-thirds in, when the movie's consant onslaught of buildup leads to a genuine monster encounter... and somehow the right mood isn't hit. I don't want to give too much away, but for clarity, here's what I'm not saying: I'm not saying the actors couldn't pull it off, because they actually seemed to have the chops. I'm not saying the movie is stingy with the monster, because it isn't, and I'm really not saying that the climactic moment of the movie is a letdown, because that happens elsewhere and comes from an unexpected direction, and it totally delivers.

This is the one of the best examples of speculative "what would it really be like?" science fiction I've seen on the screen. And while it might not scare your pants off, the idea has a way of haunting you. Highly recommended.

Whew! I'm done. When I said the last week of posting had no per-day cap, I didn't think I'd be the one to abuse it the worst. Cheers, and thanks for reading.

We All Scream for Ice Scream (Masters of Horror)

(2007) *1/2
Another chapter in the Masters of Horror collection, “We All Scream” is a chapter dedicated to showing you what happens when ice-cream truck clowns turn evil. It isn't too intimidating, for reasons JSP and JPX pointed out in their reviews and also due to the fact that Buster the Clown only targets the families of those that terrorized him – if you were a good kid growing up and are a good parent now, you've not a worry in the world!

"You say you brush your teeth every day AND get straight-As? Well, I guess you can be spared."
Unlike the clown from Stephen King's It, who targets kids indiscriminately, Buster is after the all-grow'd-up hooligans responsible for his death. There is not much else to add to this review, not any insights I can deliver at the 11th hour of My First Horrorthonexcept to say that I found each ice cream death more hilarious than the previous one. What can I say? Watching people melt into piles of delicious goo tickles me.
Ha-HA!

The Wickerman

(1974) ****

British Sargeant Neil Howie is called to the remote Summerisle to search for a local missing girl, Rowan Morrison. The longer Howie spends at the island, the more he realizes that its inhabitants are not at all like the usual gang of aloof country-folk he's used to. They're also not Christian (which I guess was a big deal in '74).
You wouldn't see THIS at your typical Sunday congregation.
I watched this movie for the first time last year (or was it two years ago?), and, had that been the same introduction given to me by JSP before we watched it, I would have shrugged my shoulders indifferently and muttered some words of support to give it a shot. Instead, he skirted around the plot entirely and outlined how it changed his life, emphasizing Christopher Lee's role (as Lord Summerisle – elusive and mysterious, and I kinda wish he had more scenes), then pointing repeatedly to his movie poster (which is framed and adorned with sacrificed tiny forest animals), and ended with ripping off his shirt Hulk-style to show off his chest-piece Wickerman tattoo. I'm kidding! . . . just about the dead forest-animal part. And about the chest-piece tattoo.
"I find nothing funny."
But – in all fairness, my enthusiasm in describing other cult movies comes across as unintelligible hoots and emphatic squeaks to whomever will listen. After JSP's enthusiasm was transferred to me, I got more excited when I noticed Wickerman was written by Anthony Schaffer – also the author of one of my favorite plays, Sleuth (he'd later write it for the screen for Lawrence Olivier and Michael Caine).

This movie has really grown on me over time – primarily because I always watch the super-extended-with-bonus-music-numbers version, and secondly because it's so damn fun to focus on something different with each viewing. Let's count how many naked bodies there are! Let's learn the lyrics to the song in the bar! Let's study the costumes in the culminating scene! Why is it a WickerMAN and not a WickerWOMAN if Pagan religion(s) are matriarchal? Let's discuss!
Willow serenading Sgt. Howie. Pretty hot/artistic scene.
Either way you cut it, The Wickerpersyn (yes, I renamed it for gender neutrality!) offers something new every time you see it. Maybe one of these days I'll learn all the words so I, too, can celebrate May Day in a similar fashion.

Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman


2007 ****

And so I ended my Horrorthon on this nasty note from Japan, another Horrorthonner recommendation that kicked ass (thanks, JPX). Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman is a mean, clever movie that fools you with its flat, realistic look and then stabs you in the leg. It's clever because it avoids several recurring motifs from the J-horror bag of tropes (granted, the titular ghostie is a female ghost with long black hair, but that's about it).

In many ways it still feels J-horrorish, like the scares with no silly music cue, or the general unflinching cruelty. As JPX pointed out in 2008, the Slit-Mouthed Woman is just a straight-up crazy bitch who wants to hurt children (I'm not quoting him directly). And she doesn't skulk in the shadows or under the bed; she can appear in the middle of a park on a bright sunny day.

The movie opens with a montage of people all across town discussing the rumor of the Slit-Mouthed Woman, a genuine Japanese urban legend. Somewhere an eye opens, and a dark monster emerges from a closet. The theme of rumor is a subtle one, and well fleshed out. Just as the ghost is possibly summoned by the new surge in her story, so too can her weaknesses be spotted in the whispers and gossip. The mother of one missing teen evades her police caretakers to investigate herself -- she simply asks a random little girl where the ghost can be found, according to "what everyone is saying." And gets the right answer.

The larger theme of the movie is focussed on abusive mothers and motherhood in general. I'm still not 100% sure where the movie is coming from; no less than three of the main characters are abusive moms, and all of them have a sympathetic side to their stories. The anger represented by the ghost is an anger that possesses; it's possibly the spirit of a long-dead abusive mom or possibly the spirit that possessed her, or maybe even just the essence of twisted, fractured motherhood itself.

There's tragic way that the ghost's actions affect even families without violence, shattering all these lives in the wake of her hateful campaign. I'm being deliberately vague so I don't reveal details, but here's an example. A mom is caught in the crossfire as the ghost battles, and we cut right to her two little girls looking out the window, wondering where she is. The movie doesn't dwell on the fates of these families, but it does a wonderful job of calling death out for the devastating sucker punch that it is.

I think this can be recommended to everyone present. For all my talk, Carved isn't particularly gory. It moves at a quick pace and takes all comers, and it might even scare you.

This was the last movie I watched for Horrorthon, but this is not my last review. One left. Two and a half hours to write it. It's like my second Halloween!

Idle Hands

1999 ***1/4

Catfreeek mentioned years ago that I should add this movie to my crawling hand collection. I wish I meant a collection of actual crawling hands instead of viewings of movies starring them, as by now I could make a pretty bitchin' crawling human hand centipede.

I threw this in as a last-ditch effort on Halloween Eve, but I blacked out after the first ten minutes. For a while I've been wondering who this Devon Sawa person is, having seen him in Final Destination some time ago and totally forgetting him. The opening minutes of Idle Hands did not make for a kind introduction; I didn't like Sawa's character Anton, a stoner slacker teenager, I didn't like his two sidekick buddies (one of whom played by Seth Green), who just seemed like jerks, and I'm never excited to find out Jessica Alba is on screen, unless maybe she's playing a mute robot. Because, c'mon, she's cute as a button (a sexy button) -- but boy can she not act. The inverse ratio between sexy cuteness and talent with her is, like, a fraction that can't exist. Yet there she is still, making Machete kind of suck.

Going into the bulk of the movie on Halloween night, I was pleasantly surprised to find all of my dour expectations come to naught (except for Alba, she was a cute little plank of wood, as usual.)

I liked Anton's particular brand of well-meaning slacker, and even if it was type casting, I have to give him props for the scenes where he clutched his demonically-possessed hand with the good one. Like a good muppeteer would, he does a convincing job making his evil hand look autonomous as it thrashed around, while he himself focussed on other things.

But really the movie was stolen by this dead guy here. Mick is one of the hand's early victims, and he returns from the dead to reunite with Anton, like Griffin Dunne in American Werewolf in London but without the mission. Mick just wants to hang. He saw the light and heard the celestial music, but... "I figured fuck it. It was really far." The delivery on this is excellent, and puts a gutsy, dark spin on the movie's ongoing joke about stoner slackers.

I'm repressing the urge to detail my rubbing-elbows-with-celebrity experience, but I did work on Robot Chicken for a few months and I got used to seeing Seth Green around. This was the first time I'd seen him in something since then, and it was a fresh surprise to watch him being so damn funny.

This turns into a crawling hand movie after Anton makes the command move to amputate his (a.k.a. "The Ash"). He nukes it in the microwave, but his undead guests inadvertently free it when they go to cook some burritos.

This crawling hand attacks as if it has a body attached to it, with a body's strength and leverage. I can't really accuse them of cheating; the main reason I watch crawling hand movies is to taunt the non-threat of the premise. They might as well make up their own rules.

The climax involves a Carrie-esque prom scene, some amusing gory deaths, Jessica Alba in her underwear, and -- to push the envelope as far as they could -- a demonic hand puppet. Although I didn't give it the full three and a half, I had to give it more than just three. It's got that little something.

This movie's on high goof mode, so skip it if you're not one for horror comedies. If you like them sometimes but not the ones like Scream, this might be for you, because it's not trying to be so clever. If you already like some funny with your bloody, this is definitely worth 90 minutes of your life. Maybe don't watch it sober.

Let's Scare Jessica to Death

1971 ***1/2

I'm a staycation kind of guy, because sometimes there's nothing better than a big hunk of free time in your own house with your own stuff. Plus, if I understand the world correctly, every time you go somewhere quiet and secluded in order to relax, it turns into a nightmarish fight for your very survival.

Jessica, her husband Duncan and their close friend Woody move to a small town in an isolated part of Connecticut, a town apparently populated by five unfriendly old men who live on the porch of the general store. Jessica has just been released from a mental institution for unspecified reasons, but it's clear from the outset that it wasn't a minor problem.

The three friends arrive at the Victorian farmhouse they've purchased and are surprised to discover Emily, a redheaded hippie chick who's been crashing there. Jessica spots her first, right after the lights are turned on, then Duncan looks too. He immediately turns to Jessica and says "It's okay, I see her too." A moment later, before they're even sure who the intruder is, she turns to Woody with a grin, quietly giddy that she didn't hallucinate just now.

It might seem like hamfisted writing, and maybe it is, but you'd never notice thanks to Jessica. Actress Zohra Lampert plays the character as desperately, genuinely raw in even the smallest moments, and it's a totally convincing. Everything about her is so excrutiatingly brittle, as if she might fly into pieces any second, even when she's in a good mood.

As things progress and they ask Emily to stay, we start to hear a needling voice in Jessica's head, delivered in a disquietingly close whisper. The situation is kept intentionally vague: Is this normal inner dialogue, or is her madness returning? Is Emily hot for Duncan, or a long-dead member of the family who once lived in the house, or neither? (If it's the second one, then props for the most brilliant "haunting" ever. "Oh, you guys live here? Dude, sorry! I'll go... oh really? Cool, thanks!... got any beer?")



Let's Scare Jessica to Death is a reliable, slow-burning thriller that is worthwhile for Jessica's portrayal alone. It's not particularly gory, but it has a special unsettling quality, almost as if it were beamed in from a nearby alternate reality (although sometimes 1971 is enough).

The question of what may have happened only in Jessica's mind is kept open-ended, but personally I like the idea that it all really happened. I will always lean that way. What I keep mulling over is: What happens next? Who will believe her?

Props to DCD for the recommendation.