Saturday, January 9, 2010

The 5 Best and Worst Remakes of the Decade

So, in the last two weeks I have:

Gotten so sick I stayed home from work a couple of days. And...

Broken a toe. So I am just now getting back to my blog. It's been interesting.

We are currently living in the time of endless remakes, not just in the horror genre. It seems that Hollywood is running out of original ideas. Sure, some directors wanted to see their dreams now that special effects and technology has caught up, but mostly I think it's because people are just not coming up with anything themselves. And as it becomes harder to produce original movies, I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more. But, I have compiled the 5 best and 5 worst horror remakes of the decade for your view (dis)pleasure. So, beginning with the 5 worst:

5. Halloween 2
You know, I didn't mind the first Halloween remake by Rob Zombie. If you could wade through the first few minutes of terrible dialog, the rest of the movie was an interesting, gritty experiment. The second, well, gahhh. I couldn't really get behind it and it felt like Rob was just doing a paycheck movie. Oh well, it could have been worse. It could have been...

4. The Hills Have Eyes 2
If Wes Craven were dead, he would be rolling in his grave. Instead, he's just rolling his eyes and taking his royalty check to the bank. The characters were boring and uninspired, the acting was stilted and awful, and the mutants were dull. It was trying to be like the first, but it failed on being in the realm as the first. I didn't have terribly high hopes considering the source material, but it could have been better.

3. The Eye
Americans need to stop remaking Asian horror flicks. It rarely works out as well as the original. And stop putting Jessica Alba in speaking roles. I mean, she's fine to look at, but (much like Megan Fox) so irritating to listen to I find myself trying to go deaf when she is speaking onscreen. And such a great original movie deserves more.

2. Day of the Dead
I once said this movie wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. That being said, it was still pretty terrible. The dead are not only fast zombies, but they are also Spider-Man zombies that can climb up walls and leap from 4th story windows and hit the ground running. Nick Cannon starred in it. NICK. CANNON. *throws up into bucket*

1. The Omen
This movie was pretty bad, but the real atrocity is that the original is one of the best horror movies of all time. There were unnecessary dream sequences, quick camera cuts to reveal demons (demons, really?), and one of the worst make up jobs I've ever seen in recent memory. It didn't even attempt to look real. I was appalled by this movie.

And now, for the best:

5. The Amityville Horror
I think this remake was highly underrated. Ryan Reynolds in a more serious role? And it actually worked pretty well? The horror was pretty toned down (aside from the scene in the basement with the torture) and was a good, creepy atmosphere. I was pleasantly surprised by this one.

4. Dawn of the Dead
Yeah, the slick, Zack Snyder-directed remake of Dawn was good. I didn't like the faster zombies at first, but they worked with this version. The characters were well acted and sympathetic and the movie took a little time to set them up, something not enough horror movies do. It was a good mix of violence and story and that's not always easy.

3. The Ring
As I mentioned before, Asian horror movies being remade rarely works out. This, is an exception. I think The Ring is better than the original Ringu and is one of the few movies that actually scared me initially. I loved the look, the acting, and the special effects. Basically, the whole movie worked for me. The well scene is very creepy and I loved the horse scene on the boat. I couldn't look away the entire film.

2. The Hills Have Eyes
Alexandre Aja made his English speaking film debut a bang. This movie, for me, surpasses the original classic (blasphemy, I know). The family is a bunch of people you don't want to see bad things happen to and the mutants are so vile you just want them to die. The revenge Doug seeks on the villains is so very gratifying and graphic, I was almost cheering the first time I watched it. Again, a good balance of gore and story and a gritty, realistic feel to the cinematography lends to a very enjoyable movie. Go see it.

1. Quarantine
After watching [rec], I desperately wanted to see how the American studios could screw a remake of a good film like that up. So, I went to the theater and eagerly awaited disappointment. Well, I got an annoying lead girl, but the disappointment never came. The movie is equal to [rec] (if not a bit better) in my mind. The terror feels real and the suspense is palpable for most of the film. And while the monster at the end isn't as good as [rec], it's still a scary scene nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Top 10 Horror Comedies of the Decade

Continuing my list off for the next few days, I have my top ten Horror Comedies since 2000. I did this list because I was purposely not including the movies on any of my considerations for best horror. I love horror comedies, it's just hard to compare them to straight horror. I enjoy horror comedies too much to not mention them though, so they get their own list. So, with out further ado, the list!

10. Undead
This is kind of a fun, goofy little Australian zombie flick. There are aliens, a guy with a triple shotgun, and a scene in a hardware store that uses all kinds of strange implements for kills. It's pretty light on story, but it's pretty heavy on gore and other things, so in the end, it's a pretty entertaining ride.

9. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Though towards the end of the movie it turns a bit more serious, this faux-documentary produces some good laughs in the beginning. The scene where he talks about all the cardio you have to do as a relentless killer. "There's that whole thing where you look like you're walking, and everyone else is running their asses off!" Pretty damn funny if you think about it.

8. Planet Terror
Yeah, it's not necessarily a comedy per se, but I'll be damned if it took itself seriously. The better half of Grindhouse is downright hilarious at parts and just plain gross for most of the movie. I can't believe more people didn't like it, but I guess some people thought it was actually trying to be serious. Missing the point of Grindhouse, if you ask me.

7. Fido
Another zomedy? This one flew under the radar and clocked in straight to DVD, but it is still quite redeeming. With a great cast and lines like "Help, help! Grandpa's fallen and he's getting back up!", it was hard for me not to like this flick. The shots and scenery are pretty stellar too!

6. Black Sheep
This time New Zealand steps up to the plate and delivers the goods. Watching mutant sheep attack humans with blood and gore everywhere may not be for everyone, but dammit, it was for me! I really loved watching the ridiculous makeup effects for people being eaten and change into were-sheep (yeah, you read that correctly). If you haven't seen this movie, watch it just to watch the slaughter that happens at a genetic unveiling.

5. Dead Snow
Those crazy Norwegians! Nazi zombies? References to Evil Dead? A self inflicted castration by chainsaw? What's not to love? I had a blast with this movie and all the ridiculousness housed within. I can't stress enough how much fun it was to see another movie that actually used traditional effects instead of CGI. And just seeing some of the things that happened in this movie made me realize that a little comedy never hurts when dealing with zombies.

4. Night of the Living Dorks
I had the joy of seeing this German film on the big screen here at the Wisconsin Film Festival a few years ago and couldn't stop laughing the entire time. As three high schoolers try to raise the dead, they end up dying in a car accident... and coming back to life themselves! It's pretty juvenile humor (not that there's anything wrong with that), but you can't help but laugh as body parts start to fall of and get stapled back on. And yes, one of "those" falls off and gets put back on in a terrifically done scene.

3. Slither
Nathan Fillion is a goddamn genius. Everything about this movie is amazing. Aliens? Check. Zombies? Check. Pointless banter about flight speed of birds? Check. Really gross death scenes? Double check. Watching a woman that has been inflated to the point of bursting with worms is so much fun, I can't even begin to describe it. Well, actually, in the words of Mr. Fillion from this very movie: "Well now that is some fucked up shit."

2. Zombieland
Yeah, I had to include it. What list is complete without it? I had a blast watching this in the theaters. Bill Murray? How do you not love that? Woody Harrelson is great and the entire movie is shot well. I love the rules that kept popping up whenever they were relevant. I couldn't help but see the joy that was put into this movie and think that it was made with someone who really likes zombie/horror movies. That's rare to find and this movie did it. Actually, all of the top 3 movies on this list exhibited that. Which brings me to the number one Horror Comedy of the last decade...

1. Shaun of the Dead
I really liked Zombieland, but it can't hold a candle to Shaun of the Dead. For all the love shown in Slither and Zombieland, Shaun has more than both of them combined. References to The Evil Dead, Lucio Fulci, Night of the Living Dead, and a ton more, Shaun of the Dead is done by people that truly loved and believed in what they were making. It brought in so many memories and produced so many more for me that I include it in my top 5 movies of all time, let alone horror comedies of the last decade. I will watch it whenever it is on TV and have to put it in my DVD player about 3 times a year, minimum. I have a hard time believing any movie will reproduce such feelings in me for a very long time.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Some Lists Coming At You!

I've decided to dedicate the next few days to some lists I have been cooking up. Some will be best of the decade, some are best of the last year, some are worst lists, and some I don't know if I have ideas for yet. But, in any event, I am going to start you off with a nice little smattering of what I thought was the best of the last decade in Horror. Here are some of my "Best of"s for the last decade:

Best Vampire Movie: Let The Right One In

Sure, Twilight may have dominated the box office numbers, but for sheer beauty, nothing could touch LTROI. The movie is nearly perfectly shot, written, and acted, making it one of my favorite movies of all time, let alone horror movies. I have run into very few people that have seen this movie and not liked it. Hell, almost everyone I know loved it. It's just such a wonderful movie, I can't say enough good things. This one was a no-brainer.

Others in contention: Honestly, there were none. This just won, hands down.

Best Zombie Movie: 28 Days Later

Sure, I know I have said in the past that it isn't a "true" zombie movie (the rage doesn't kill people and bring them back), but for all intents and purposes, I'm willing to accept it as such. Danny Boyle (pre-Oscar win) is in great form with this movie and Cillian Murphy leads a wonderful cast in acting in this movie. It's got brains (pun intended), action, drama, heart, and lots of blood vomiting, so what's not to like? Also, people get hacked apart with machetes. That's a win in my book!

Others in contention: Dawn of the Dead, Quarantine, [rec], 28 Weeks Later. I didn't consider comedies like Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, or Dead Snow.

Best Werewolf Movie: Dog Soldiers

Neil Marshall is one of my favorite new directors and his freshman effort was a lot of fun for me. It's not too serious, but it definitely delivers on action. Dog Soldiers had just the right amount of blood and gore without sacrificing story that I couldn't help but enjoy it. If you haven't seen this movie or happen to pass it up because of the horrific box art on some of the DVD cases, go see it now. It's also interesting to note that Neil Marshall said he liked werewolf movies except for transformation scenes because they generally fell flat. Thus, he set out to make a werewolf movie with no transformation scenes and this movie was born!

Others in contention: Ginger Snaps

Best Monster Movie: The Host

Yes, it was a little off-the-wall, but I liked the movie and thought it was enough horror and not comedy to include it on the list. I loved the way the movie was shot and really enjoyed the monster effects for this flick. It was great to see the bow-and-arrow being used as a weapon in a modern movie again and the story with the family behind it was very well done. It was creepy at parts, zany in others, and always enjoyable. It is one of my favorite horror movies of the last 10 years!

Others in contention: Cloverfield, Rogue

Best Slasher Movie: Wolf Creek

Slow to build and a low body count, yet it's my top slasher film? Yes, it's pretty well documented that I don't really like slasher flicks all that much, but this movie blew me away. It did a great job of setting up characters you cared about instead of giving you fodder people to be killed off. It gave a terrifying killer that actually had a face to connect to (making him scarier than a masked killer, in my mind) and victims you legitimately didn't want to die. Greg McClean did a great job with this and Rogue, his underrated giant killer crocodile feature. Seek this one out.

Others in contention: Cold Prey, The Cottage, The Midnight Meat Train

Best Haunted House Movie: The Orphanage

Haunting, chillingly beautiful, and absolutely terrifying in parts. This is was one of my favorite horror movies of the last decade (obviously) and a great story. I can't talk enough about the set pieces, from the cavernous orphanage the main characters reside in to the cave that is, well, cavernous. Throw in some creepy ghost kids and a weird game where the woman knocks on the wall, and you have a wonderfully macabre movie.

Others in contention: Session 9, Silent Hill, Paranormal Activity, The Devil's Backbone

That's my first list, keep coming back every day until Friday for more lists of the decade!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Psycho Bathroom

Here are (as promised) some higher quality pictures of what has become one of my favorite Christmas presents of all time: the Psycho bathroom!

(Click on the images for a higher quality version)

What do you all think?

Also, I have compiled a "Best of 09" list. Shortly thereafter, I will have a best of the decade list! All to be put up very soon! Let's hope for some good horror this year!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Bloody Good Christmas

As many of you are recovering from the holidays, I thought I would share with you just what I got from my lovely girlfriend for Christmas. The backstory is that we watched Psycho together a while ago. She loved the movie (and I have always loved it), and had a sudden thought: Psycho bathroom. She was going to make a bloody shower curtain and then hang some stills from the movie up in the bathroom to make a nice, Psycho-themed bathroom for us. Well, that idea came and went and never came to fruition. We talked about it and thought it was a neat idea, but never really acted on it.

Until now.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my Christmas present (a favorite of all time for me), the Psycho bathroom.

We don't have all of the pictures hung up because it's a small room and we are still deciding on where to put what, but it's looking good so far! The pictures were taken with my cell phone because we lost the memory card for our digital camera, but I will try to post some better pictures later.

Also I should point out I have 2 cats that got a little jungle gym thing from my girlfriend's parents. Not that you really care about that, but I should mention the names. One is Phoenix. He's gray and I said we should name him "Jean Grey". My mom said no, but didn't Jean Grey turn into something? Hence, Phoenix. However, the better name is my little Calico cat, Pazuzu. That's right, I have a cat named after the demon that possessed Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Oh, horror movies!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The 5 Creepiest Horror Movie Children

My girlfriend brought up a good question to me the other day: why are kids so inherently creepy in horror movies? I thought about it for a while and I couldn't really come up with a good answer. Is it because of how they represent innocence? Is it because you see yourself at that age? Is it because seeing a child do certain things is so much scarier than an adult doing it? Or is it just because they are so small?

I think it has something to do with the idea of the loss of innocence. Little kids are these pure versions of humans, free of corruption and full of potential. And if you see them turning evil, there's something inherently creepy about them. It's going against the norm of the cute little kid that just wants to play. Suddenly it's something that has become malevolent for whatever reason. And because of people not wanting to see bad things happen to children, they are harder to defend against. It's an odd juxtaposition of this incorruptible, angelic state of children that has suddenly turned violent.

In any event, whatever the reason for kids being creepy in horror movies, they fucking are. So I am going count down the 5 creepiest horror movie kids to me:

5. Jake Witzky, Stir of Echoes (1999):

Yeah, that picture says it all. The little kid seems to know what is up with Kevin Bacon, but can't really express it. When Kevin Bacon tries to coax any sort of information out of him, the kid clams up and tells his mom about the ghosts he sees. The kid is strangely sympathetic and a little jerk all at the same time.
Scariest Moment: When his voice suddenly drops about 5 octaves as he talks to Kevin Bacon. Kevin Bacon then tries to get him to repeat it and all he says is, "I don't wanna talk about it." A greatly underrated movie.

4. Paulie, The Children (2009):

This movie is one of the Ghost House pictures most recent releases and it is actually quite impressive. Now, it revolves around 4 demonic children, but Paulie is probably the creepiest of them all. A consummate mama's boy, he is always crying and whining, never more than a couple feet from his mother's side. He's the little whiny bastard you hate from the beginning. And as the movie wears on, he doesn't get any better, especially once he turns into the little hellspawn we all knew he was from the beginning. And any kid that just sits there and bangs on a toy xylophone for hours on end without saying a word is just downright schizo.
Scariest Moment: A sled careens down a hill and injures one of the adults and Paulie is seen at the top of the sled run, looking distant and cold. You can see it in the trailer briefly. But look a the rest of the scenes with the kid with a little afro and tell me that's not creepy.

3. Regan, The Exorcist (1973)

Yeah, this one's a no-brainer. Any child possessed by the devil is going to be scary as shit. Throw in some crucifix defiling, sprinkle a dash of spider-walking, and top it off with some Pea-soup spewing, you can't deny this little girl is just plain insane, not to mention pants-shittingly scary.
Scariest Moment: Anytime the priests are in the room with her.

2. Gage Creed, Pet Sematary (1989):

He's such a cute little lovable kid in the beginning, making it all the more horrifying when he turns murderous in the end. He is the only kid on this list that makes such a terrifyingly sharp transformation, and that's what makes him so scary. Sure, Regan was supposed to be cute and likable, but Linda Blair just wasn't as cute as poor little Gage. Plus, he's demonic because his father was too grief stricken to listen to instructions, making him all the more tragic.
Scariest Moment: Little Gage, you're the reason I jumped into and out of bed for years as a kid.

1. Damien, The Omen (1976):

I think The Exorcist may have scarier moments involving Regan, but for my money, Damien just downright fuck-all creepy. I can't get over his little silent, brooding machinations. You never know what he is thinking, but you always know it's not good. And the fact that he never really does anything overwhelmingly evil except for throw a tantrum is really quite disconcerting (sure, he throws the tantrum when they try to take him to church, but what kid didn't do that?). He has a cadre of minions, from his satanic nanny to the rabid rottweiler that follows him, so you just can't get near the damn kid. And he's got 666 as a birthmark. The kid who played Damien in the original (not the craptacular remake) had the best creepy kid stare in the world. I get chills just thinking about him. And the worst part: he lives in the end to infect the world!
Scariest Moment: Well, it might be when you find out that his mother was a jackal, but I think it's probably that final shot of him smiling into the camera that really seals the deal.

There are my picks, what do the rest of you have to say about it?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Deadgirl Review

I watched this via Netflix Instant view this week (is there any greater invention?), so I figured I could throw up a review of it. A quick plot summary first:

Two teenage guys decide to skip school to go drink beer at an abandoned insane asylum (who hasn't done that before?). As they enter the asylum, the come across a naked dead girl under a plastic sheet. They then discover she is alive and one of the boys decides she is hot and seeing as how she is tied down, makes the popular decision to have sex with her. The sensible other boy decides that's rape and leaves, only to have the rapist come find him a day later. The rapist takes him back to the dead girl and tells him how she started to growl and bite at him, so he beat her to death (seems logical). Sensible boy was wondering why the rapist had to show him the aftermath, only to find out the girl isn't dead. She's not alive either. They shoot her, strangle her, and pummel her some more, but she stays alive. As another rapist boy comes to enter the picture, the secret gets out and bad stuff happens (who would have seen that coming). Without revealing too much, a dick gets bitten, intestines are literally shat out, a dog is eaten, and you see some very hairy crotch. Sounds intriguing, no?

Cinematography: The movie is shot on digital cameras and is fairly high quality, but nothing to really be amazed at. The shot scale is ample and pretty simple, but good despite its simplicity. It luckily doesn't fall into any shaky cam moments or anything of that sort, but Deadgirl is definitely the work of an amateur filmmaker. However, it's someone with talent that could very easily develop into someone with a bit more presence. Overall, the movie doesn't have enough originality to establish itself in atmosphere, but it is done well enough that it gets a 3 out of 5 for Cinematography.

Execution: Well, Deadgirl is a whole new concept to me. It does revolve ultimately around moral impacts and making the right decision, but it does so in a way that I have not previously seen or heard of. I mean, finding an unkillable person and using them for sex? Pretty original idea there. It does, however, fall into the random high school stereotypes pretty quickly with some of the characters. The bullies are pretty standard "jock" types (which they even reference), and the losers (main characters) are poor, school-ditching, pot-smoking bastards. The problem is that you only really find one character likable (Rickie), but because he makes such strange decisions, you don't really care all that much for him. On the one hand, I liked the idea, on the other, the characters were cliche, so it gets a fence-straddling 2.5 out of 5 for Execution.

Sub-genre Comparison: Well, Deadgirl is at heart a zombie movie. The girl that can't die but is already dead, she infects people with a bite, and tries to eat some flesh, pretty much makes it a zombie film. However, it's hard to compare Deadgirl to other standard zombie fare because it is not standard zombie fare. It's a nice little breath of fresh air in what has become a pretty stagnant genre. It doesn't compare to Night of the Living Dead or 28 Days Later, but it isn't trying to either. It's not the best zombie movie I have ever seen, but it is plenty original, so Deadgirl is rewarded for originality with a 3.5 out of 5 for Sub-genre Comparison.

Production Value: The movie clearly had no budget (otherwise you may have heard of it), but it does well with what it has. The actors are pretty good, only a couple of times was it even remotely hard to sit through. But even Deadgirl's worst acting is better than other movies' best, so it doesn't suffer. Deadgirl uses pretty good special effects, opting for a lot of make up (always a plus in my mind). There is a lot of blood, but not a whole lot of gore, making the aforementioned intestine shitting scene hit a little harder. It's impressive with the little budget it has, so Deadgirl grabs a 4 out of 5 for Production Value.

Scares: Deadgirl is fairly tense and well done, but not particularly scary. The end scene manages to conjure a few good moments and some nice tension, but the movie has more of an uneasy vibe the entire way through, rather than a sense of dread. Deadgirl does a few jump scares too many for my tastes, but it has a good setting for that (the asylum they are in), so I don't blame the filmmakers for that one. Deadgirl, while not the scariest thing I have ever seen, did make me a bit uneasy at times, so I give it a moderate 2.5 out of 5 for Scares.

Overall, Deadgirl manages a moderate 15.5 out of 25 arbitrary marks on my scale. It's an average horror movie that I enjoyed, but don't really have any desire to watch again. I recommend any horror fan watch it, but I am not going to tell you that you have to go see it right now. I liked the idea and it was very refreshing to see such an original idea in an independent horror from the US, but ultimately I just wasn't that interested in the subject matter or characters to love the movie.

Though there is still some like there.