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.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More Horror Reading

Like I said, I do occasionally read a bit and this has been on my agenda for too long: I read John Dies at the End and I need to tell you what I thought. So, here goes nothing!

The book is written by David Wong, a feature writer over at (hilarious website, I recommend you check it out if you get a chance) and it's abundantly clear from the beginning this book doesn't take itself too seriously. John Dies at the End has a brilliant mix of comedy and horror contained in its pages, showing Wong's love for both genres. For example, a monster composed entirely of pieces of meat (the head is a turkey, a deer tongue hanging below it, hams for legs, sausages for fingers) actually conjures up quite a scare when it first comes to life. However, as it speaks, it says, "So nice we could meat again." Wong says he has no way of knowing if it actually said "meet" or "meat", but he gives it the benefit of the doubt. Oh, did I forget to mention the main character (besides John, that is) is also named David Wong? It's not his actual name, but it's a combination of a generic American first name and one of the most common last names in the world, so as to make him hard to find. As David does battle with the "meatstrocity", you find a writer who knows how to make you laugh but create a terrifying situation to laugh at.

The stories told by the character David Wong get increasingly stranger towards the end of the book (yes, the meat monster is one of the tamer tales in the beginning of the book). Wong is being interviewed for a magazine article and he delves deeper and deeper into a world of the unknown opened up by soy sauce and tiny, brain-eating worms. As wig monsters try to hunt him down in a Vegas hypnotist's show, he manages to avoid the all-seeing eye of Korrok. John then tracks down a giant crab with a gorilla riding it and opens an inter-dimensional rift to a place where naked people try to kill the fake John and David. Are you following any of this?

Trust me, it's just as absurd in the book.

However, it will make more sense if you read the book. And that's where the strength of this book lies: in its absurdity and ability to make light of terrifying situations. The descriptions in the book are fun to read and you wonder just what sort of screwed up monsters Wong will craft for you next. And aside from an unhealthy obsession with phallic objects, the monsters remain original and different every time he introduces them. The book is a spellbinding read and highly enjoyable. It's also fairly quick, for those of you with short attention spans.

I urge to find it and read it. John Dies at the End is great fun and a must-read for horror and comedy fans alike.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Straight To Video Gems: The Signal

So I'm going to keep on telling you guys about the great little gems I find that go straight to video here in the US. I will also try to include movies that either got a very limited release in theaters or ones that were released in other countries but not here. So today, I give a little love a personal favorite of mine from the last couple of years:

The Signal

It opens with a woman by the name of Mya cheating on her husband and her lover Ben tells her they can run away together and be happy. She doesn't know what to say, so Ben tells her to think about it and gives her a mix cd he made for her. As she goes down to the parking structure, she has a couple of odd run-ins with some random people and gets a little freaked out. As she arrives home to her husband Lewis, strange things are happening in the hallway of their apartment building. Lewis is getting ready to watch the game with his friends, but some sort of strange signal is coming through the TV instead of the game. It seems to effect Lewis in a very strange way. A small argument amongst the men escalates into Lewis going berserk and killing one of his friends. As Mya scrambles to get away from Lewis, she finds more terrible things going on in the hallway. As chaos envelopes everything around her, she scrambles to find a safe place and thus begins Lewis and Ben trying to find her before the other.

The movie is shot in 3 different parts: the beginning, which is straight horror; the middle, which is more lighthearted and would qualify as a dark comedy; and the end, which is more of a blend of horror, comedy, and love story. Each segment is written and directed by a different person, giving it three distinct styles in one movie. But the most impressive thing is that while each segment feels a little different, they all still flow and gel like a single entity, never making you feel like you are watching a different movie. They all work together really well and give the movie just the right feel. Some people will tell you they didn't like how the movie never really decided what it wanted to be, but I perceive that to be The Signal's greatest strength: it does three genres (horror, comedy, romance) and does all of them well.

The beginning deluge of chaos gives it a very frantic feel and the gore in it is pretty sparse. It's violent, yes, but it's more blood than gore, just opting to splatter people in fake blood rather than disemboweling them. There is a lot of violence however, so faint of heart beware. However, the bloodiest parts are often some of the funniest parts once you get past the first third of the movie. A couple expecting guests for their New Years Party and one winding up dead, a man talking to a disembodied head, and a guy spraying bug spray in people's eyes are all among the things that would normally seem rather grim, but The Signal handles all with a comedic deftness that most funny movies can't even achieve.

Overall, The Signal is one of my favorite movies of the last couple of years, let alone horror. I really enjoyed watching it because it was something new to me. The plot is pretty heavily borrowed from the Stephen King novel Cell (or coincidentally is very similar), but it's just different enough that it isn't just a rip-off. It's a very worthwhile film if you have a chance to check it out!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cell Phones in Horror

After coming across this nice little video, I just had to share this with all of you guys:

It is quite the cop out: no cell reception. But it makes sense in a lot of the movies because of the location. I am not mad because if you didn't insert that one little line, then everyone would ask, "Why don't they just use their cell to call for help?" It's a bit of a crutch, but it's rather essential to most of the movies. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Master of Horror: Stephen King

So in my previous installments of my Master of Horror theme, I have examined filmmakers and how their movies rate. Well, with the upcoming release of his new book, I decided to take a look at Stephen King's writings and how they have fared being turned into movies. Now, I haven't seen all of the movies that have been made from his books, but i have seen a good deal of them. I had to narrow down the list, so here are the requirements for my list:

1. No miniseries. Yes, I liked The Stand and things like that, but I want movies here.
2. Has to be based of a book or story by King. I love Creepshow and Rose Red, but I want this to be an adaptation of an existing work.
3. I will stick to the horror side of King. Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile are all good movies, but they aren't horror.
4. No sequels. Yes, he may have made up the characters for Children of the Corn 4 or Pet Sematary 2, but he didn't write what they were based off of. Well, in a way I guess, but no.
5. No matter how the movie was, it's not King's fault (necessarily).

*As always, this isn't a complete filmography. If you want to see that, go here.

Carrie (1976): A brilliant movie. Not much can be said about this Brian De Palma masterpiece. It's a little dated, sure, but even film critics that don't like horror can't help but admit this is a great movie. Good book too.

The Shining (1980): Replace "Brian De Palma" with "Stanley Kubrick" in the previous review, and that's how I feel here. Consistently number 1 or 2 on my favorite horror movies of all time lists, The Shining is amazingly well done and terrifying to this day.

Cujo (1983): This movie wasn't that bad, but it didn't have nearly the punch the novel did. This stems greatly from the severely changed ending. Warning: Spoilers for a 20 year old film and older book!: In the book, the mother and her son are trapped in a car in the heat. She ends up killing the rampaging dog to come back to the car and find her son died. She snaps and coddles the dead boy even after the EMTs arrive and try to take the body from her. It's powerful, disparate, and moving. The movie ends with her and the son surviving. Sure, it's a happy-go-lucky standard Hollywood ending, but come on! That really bugs me. The movie isn't terrible though, so you can still watch it.

The Dead Zone (1983): One of David Cronenberg's few horror movies that doesn't feature a lot of grotesque creatures and gore effects. However, it's still captivating. The Dead Zone was an establishing movie for Christopher Walken and even though he does mostly goofy stuff now, you can see that he can act very well if need be. A must see, in my opinion.

(1983): A double whammy: Stephen King and John Carpenter. The duo did amazingly well with this movie, making a murderous car one of the scariest things in the 80s. It's not Carpenter's best film, but it's a good one for sure, and an essential for any fan of either Carpenter or King.

Children of the Corn (1984): A cult classic. While it looks a little more dated than some of the other King movies from this era, it did manage to spawn quite the movie franchise and it terrified me when I was a kid, that's for sure. After a recent viewing, it didn't quite have the same effect, but it's still a good movie.

Maximum Overdrive (1986): This is the only movie that King has no excuse for. It's a bad movie, based off a mediocre short story that marks the only movie King ever directed. He was so turned off after doing this movie, he vowed never to direct again. Probably a good thing.

The Running Man (1987): So bad, yet so good. So very 80s. It's cheesy, but that's half the appeal of the movie. I can't in good conscience call it a good movie, but I can't say it's a bad movie either.

Pet Sematary (1989): One of my favorite horror movies of all time. It's so very creepy and macabre, I can't help but love it. Gage still creeps me out and the Achilles' tendon scene will forever give me the willies:

Misery (1990): Rob Reiner does it again with a Stephen King story. Kathy Bates is perfect. James Caan gives a great performance as the crippled writer. And we find the second consecutive movie with a brilliant "cringe inducing moment": the hobbling scene. Just watch this and tell me you don't shudder:

The Lawnmower Man (1992): Yeah, King actually removed his credit from this movie because he disliked it so much. It wasn't very good, but it was still based off a story by the man himself, so like it or not, he's got a tie to it. This one was pretty bad.

Sleepwalkers 1992): I can remember watching this as a kid and being fairly frightened of it. The problem is, when I bought it a couple years ago for $5 on DVD, it definitely has not aged well. I was tempted to call this a good one, but it's not. It's a pretty bad movie upon my recent review.

The Dark Half (1993): Romero directs this rather dull adaptation of a King story. It's pretty uninspired, but I already wrote about it in my Romero MoH article.

The Mangler (1995): You would think that if Tobe Hooper and Stephen King hooked up, they would be able to make a good movie out of that (especially featuring Robert Englund!). But alas, The Mangler pretty much sucks, so it was not meant to be.

The Night Flier (1997): I actually think this is an underrated King adaptation and that it deserves a better reputation. I liked this movie, even if it was a bit low budget. It's by no means the best King adaptation out there, but I feel like it's a nice little flick.

Apt Pupil (1998): I wrestled with putting this on the list as it's more of a drama than horror, but I feel like the performance Brad Renfro turned was haunting enough. A movie that should be on everyone's radar, we find a Nazi war criminal (Ian McKellan) hiding in America for 50 years, only to have a high school student recognize him and make him tell war horror stories. A truly frightening film.

Dreamcatcher (2003): One of my favorite King books turned into a rather thin movie. It was pretty boring and not nearly as engaging as the book was. Though seeing a "shit weasel" come to life on screen was pretty satisfying.

Secret Window (2004): So this movie isn't really anything all that great, but the actors in it are the reason to watch it. Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, and Charles Dutton are all quite good in their roles. The ending is trite and been done before (and better), but the rest of the movie is made good by the actors.

1408 (2007): I really liked this short story and the prospect of seeing John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson bring the main characters to life excited me. It was, however a pretty forgettable horror movie. I didn't dislike it, but it wasn't anything I have any desire to watch again.

The Mist (2007): I love this movie... in black and white. I like it in color too, don't get me wrong, but it's amazing in B&W. It's so well done and the creatures look great in the grayscale color scheme (they were a little hokey in color). The ending is so powerful, it's amazing.

And that's all I've seen of his. That totals up 8 great movies, 6 okay movies, and 7 bad movies. It seems that the 90s weren't very good to King, as most of the bad movies came from that era. Although that's also when a couple good miniseries came (It, The Stand) and when some of his best non-horror work was done (Shawshank, The Green Mile, Dolores Claiborne). But in the end, I consider him a Master of Horror regardless of the number of bad movies, mostly because he had little influence over them (aside from Maximum Overdrive). Stephen King continues to scare to this day and let me tell you, I am excited about an adaptation of Cell, if it ever happens (especially now that Eli Roth isn't attached).

My hats off to you, Stephen King. Keep writing!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Horror TV Shows

So there aren't that many horror based TV shows out there (which is a shame) and the few that show up often aren't that great. I am a purveyor of such shows however, and I am trying to come up with what I would consider the best horror TV shows of all time. The problem is that I haven't seen such classics as Kolchak: The Night Stalker or haven't seen that many episodes of things like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, or Alfred Hitchcock Presents. So, I am going to do the 5 best Horror Themed TV Shows Since 1990. But where to begin?

*A couple points of criteria:
1. They have to be shows I watch(ed).
2. The shows need to be American in origin (sorry Riget).
3. Not miniseries or one-offs, actual series.
4. I need to consider them horror (Buffy and Angel, while good, are not quite horror enough for me).

5. Masters of Horror (Showtime 2005-2007): It only ran for two seasons (and the second season wasn't quite as good), but it definitely made me take notice. With episodes like "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" (Coscarelli), "Cigarette Burns" (Carpenter), and "Imprint" (Miike), the series could chill and frighten. It also showed that some directors still had the ability to make something good. I really enjoyed the overall run of the series, but when it went to Fear Itself, it pretty much lost me. But watch the 2 seasons of Masters of Horror for some great moments, even if not all the episodes are that great.

4. Millennium (Fox 1996-1999): Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files, managed to create another gem with Millennium. It follows Frank Black (played wonderfully by the amazing Lance Henriksen), a detective who has the ability to see things from the mind of a killer and try to track them down. As the series progressed, Frank got deeper and deeper into a conspiracy involving the mysterious Millennium group, not knowing what he had gotten himself into. It was dark, scary, and unfortunately short. The series was so poorly wrapped up that Carter wrote an episode into a season of The X-Files in order to wrap up Millennium. It was a great run for this show, even if it was a short run.

3. American Gothic (CBS 1995-1996): Featuring the considerable talents of Gary Cole, Lucas Black, and Jake Weber, American Gothic was a nefariously overlooked show at the time. It has since gained a bit of a cult following, but it nonetheless remains a criminally underrated show. Cole plays a vicious Southern sheriff that is trying to take Black as his own son. As the series played out, you find that Cole has some very evil intentions (and equally evil powers) for our young hero, but Black has his dead sister and a friendly doctor (Weber) to protect him. With a tagline that still creeps me out ("Someone's at the door"), the show was a great mix of scares and serious storyline. Buy it on DVD if you have a chance!

2. Tales from the Crypt (HBO 1989-1996): Yeah, I said since 1990, but this is close enough for me. Quite frankly, no list of horror TV shows is complete without Tales from the Crypt. From the intros by the Cryptkeeper (which scared the hell out of me when I was a kid) to the theme by Danny Elfman to the many great guest stars, it was just an incredible TV series. I can't tell you what my favorite episode is, but I can tell you that anytime I go back and start watching them again, I still enjoy them. Anytime I find them on TV (which is rare), I stop and watch whatever happens to be on. It's just that good.

1. The X-Files (Fox 1993-2002): The show that redefined Sci-Fi and Horror television. It made people that didn't care about horror and sci-fi tune in week after week to see what would happen next to Mulder and Scully. I started off watching the show every Sunday. After a couple of weeks, my mom would sit and sew while sort of watching it with me. Pretty soon she wasn't sewing anymore and was just watching the show. That brought my sister and father in out of curiosity and pretty soon, it was a family viewing experience. The show was so well written, wonderfully scary, and just all around a blast to watch. I have the first 7 seasons on DVD (after Mulder left, I didn't like the show as much), and I still watch them. My mother will still tell me that her favorite episode is "Home", which features inbred brothers trying to produce offspring with their mother. The episode was banned from TV for a couple of years because of its graphic subject matter and it remains one of the best episodes of The X-files or any other TV series ever in my opinion. Plus, I bet if you start whistling the theme song, nearly everyone will know it (and probably get a bit freaked out in the process).

As always, what do you think?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Paranormal Activity vs [rec]

So after re-watching Paranormal Activity (sober this time) and watching [rec] this weekend, I started to compare the two movies quite a bit. They are both handheld horror, so that started the obvious comparison. But the main thing to remember is that they are both very good handheld horror. While the movies both have quite different plots, they are similarly terrifying and both highlight the idea that there is no escape from the respective terrors. I just had to wonder how they stacked up against each other. So we have a rumble on our hands folks!

First, a look at [rec]. This is the Spanish film that inspired Quarantine, in case you don't know that already. Well, the movie opens with a film crew doing a show about what happens when you sleep. They are following a group of firemen for a night when they get a call about an elderly woman who is hurt in her apartment. After the woman attacks a police officer already on the scene, the building is suddenly quarantined off and the survivors aren't allowed out. They find out slowly that whatever was wrong with the old woman can be spread to others and things start going very poorly for our poor residents. Things escalate into one of the creepiest final scenes in horror history.

Paranormal Activity is an American movie made about 2 years ago, but until recently never really saw the light of day in theaters. It follows a couple that recently moved in together and you discover that the woman has been haunted by something since she was very young, no matter where she was living. As the young couple begin watching the footage after each night, they discover that whatever it is that haunts them is getting bolder and stronger. Finally, things escalate into one of the creepiest final scenes in horror history.

Both movies rely on the cinema verite angle of film making, going for the found footage look to the movies. However, [rec] seems to be riding the wave of "zombie" films that have been permeating the film industry lately. I put zombie in quotes because while [rec] isn't a true zombie film in the Romero sense, it is close enough for me. That being said, [rec] is an exceptional zombie movie, so it does have that going for itself. Paranormal Activity is a unique story of a haunting in that it's not tied to a house or location, but a person being tormented by a demon. The two movies are both in established genres, but you don't see as many haunting movies like that recently, so the edge goes to Paranormal Activity.

Paranormal Activity relies a lot on the static shots of the bedroom at night. Those shots are the scariest of the film, and they are great because of their simplicity, but that's exactly why it's not quite as interesting on a cinematography level. [rec] is very shaky and frantic, often reflecting the tone of the action on screen. It gets a bit hard to watch at times because of the movement of the camera, but it's interesting to see what gets framed up. The best shots of the two movies come from [rec], framing up all kinds of scary things on the fly, rather than having the benefit of being statically set up. Therefore, [rec] gets the edge for cinematography.

Well, what is going to be the tie breaker? I have to go with scare factor on this one. Starting with [rec], you get some truly great scenes. The initial old woman attack is tense and taut. The scene where the little girl is on the loose is nearing brilliance with the way she shows up in frame. The shot of all the infected people in the staircase is one of the craziest, most frantic scenes in recent memory. It's full of scares.

Paranormal Activity is a fairly regular movie until the static bedroom scenes. Those scenes are where the movie really truly excels. The shot where the sheets billow up and the shadow moves across the door is amazing. The shot where talcum powder is put down and footprints appear from nothing is brilliant in its simplicity. And any of the shots with just sounds are wonderfully frightening.

So it comes down to the final scenes of both movies. Both are amazing. I won't say what happens in either, but when it finally came down to it, I had to think of which one was more original. Something I truly hadn't seen before. That went to Paranormal Activity. It was so brilliantly simple and creepy. While [rec] had an amazing creature in the end that I can't seem to forget, it's what is not shown in PA that makes it scarier. So in the end, Paranormal Activity is scarier to me and therefore, wins the battle.

The honest truth is that if you watch either of these movies, you will be scared and satisfied. They are both great, but I think PA seems to be a bit more ingenious in the way it is presented. Watch both of them and tell me what you think!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Death Watch Review

I was ordering things on Amazon, as I am often doing, and I needed to get my order up to $25 (so I could get the free shipping), and I saw Death Watch sitting there in my recommendations. I had heard some good things about this movie, so I blind bought it, eagerly awaiting its arrival. It came this weekend, so I popped it in and watched it. The question is, how did I like it? First, a brief plot synopsis:

In the brutal trench fighting of the First World War, a British infantry company is separated from their regiment after a fierce battle. Attempting to return to their lines, the British soldiers discover what appears to be a bombed out German trench, abandoned except for a few dazed German soldiers. After killing most of the Germans, and taking one prisoner, the British company fortifies to hold the trench until reinforcements can arrive. Soon, however, strange things begin to happen as a sense of evil descends on the trench and the British begin turn on each other.

As always, if you don't know my criteria, here's an explanation.

Cinematography: The movie mostly takes place in the trenches of WWI, so it's pretty claustrophobic. And that's exactly what it needs to be in order to show the immediacy of the action. The movie is a lot of close shots (with a few range shots thrown in when appropriate), but that's what makes it feel so scary. Everything feels immediate and right next to you. The entire movie gives a good sense of dread and the shots at night really set a great atmosphere. The use of fog is quite effective as well, adding an almost dreamlike state to the film, which works perfectly with the subject matter. The use of shaky camera style is used a couple of times, which I didn't feel was necessary and the first battle scene felt a little forced, but it was an otherwise very well filmed flick. I give it 3.5 out of 5 for Cinematography.

Execution: You don't see a whole lot of movies based around the time of WWI, so right away I was intrigued by that. The costumes and settings make it feel like you are watching people in that era, which I appreciate a lot. The actors are all quite good, with the only remotely famous actor being Andy Serkis, who is best known for being the basis for Gollum and King Kong. But the actors all carry the film along very well, each playing the role amply. The characters are ones we have seen before (the tough, grisly soldier; the inept officer; the cowardly new recruit), but they are all engaging. Even the people you don't want to see survive keep your attention, so I give Death Watch a 4 out of 5 for Execution.

Sub-Genre Comparison: Well, there aren't a whole lot of WWI horror movies as I said before, so the movie can't really be compared to anything on that front. Death Watch is, at its core, a haunting movie, so it should really be compared to other haunted house movies. The heavy hitters in that category for me are The Shining and Event Horizon. Death Watch isn't quite as good as those movies, but there's a pretty good reason why I consider them to be the comparison points: they are two of my favorite horror movies of all time. Death Watch is definitely one of the better haunting movies I have seen recently and more than stacks up against anything of the last couple years. Death Watch receives a nice 3.5 out of 5 for Sub-Genre Comparison.

Production Value: This is not a big-budget Hollywood film. It doesn't look like one either. You can tell this movie was done with a lower budget. That being said, it does well with what it was given. The make-up effects are pretty good when used and the gore is generally well done. However, the use of CGI is pretty apparent and a little off-putting at times. That being said, the CGI wasn't terrible (and the movie is 7 years old now, so it's somewhat excusable), but the traditional effects were much more convincing and powerful. As I said before, there is a bit of gore in the film, but it is only used when necessary and is used as an effective product. It would be nice to see this movie with a bit more of a budget, but for Production Value, it earns 3 out of 5.

Scares: Finally, the all important question: was it scary? Well, as I said before, the movie is claustrophobic and shot mostly in the trenches, which right away makes it creepy. One thing that Death Watch does very effectively is set an atmosphere that makes you want to look away. It has a great creepy vibe with rats all over the place and a bunch of dead bodies everywhere. There is a scene in particular where a character finds 3 people standing at the end of a trench, unmoving. When he gets closer, the people are found to be rotting corpses encompassed in razor wire, but standing up under their own power. As the soldier investigates them, you start to cringe just thinking about the situation. It's a very effective scene in the movie. Death Watch is very good at setting tense situations, so I give it 4 out of 5 for Scares.

And the final tally is a nice 18 out of 25 for Death Watch. This would put it above average, but not a must see movie. It's a good movie that I haven't heard a lot about though, so I encourage you to go and watch it. There are some great scenes and watching Andy Serkis hit things with a club with nails sticking out of it is almost worth the price of admission in itself. I recommend this movie!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Reading? Who Does That?

I apparently find time to read a bit when I am not working or watching movies, and every so often I read something horror related. Okay, that's a lie, it's quite often horror related. So what was my last horror read, you ask?

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan! This is the first part of a vampire trilogy of books chronicling the events that lead up to a vampire infestation across the planet. It breaks down like this:

A plane comes into New York and goes dark on the runway. No lights, no contact, just entirely dead. Including the crew and passengers. But no decay on the bodies and no sign of terrorism or biological agents. In the cargo bay, they find a huge wooden box filled with soil and no one can figure it out. Then, after all the bodies are taken to the morgues, they disappear. But they reappear at their loved ones' houses, still walking around. What is happening?

The book does a good job of setting up the story. You meet a ton of characters in the book, all painstakingly nuanced and real feeling. The initial description of the dark plane on the runway is truly terrifying and I found myself reading it and looking around to make sure I was safe. It's a bit of a slow mover at first, but it never lost my interest. I love the way the vampires are introduced and how they work in this book (forget fangs, think stinger-like tongues). It's a great take on the vampire legend and reeks of del Toro's style the entire time. The vampire's seem to resemble the reapers from Blade II quite a bit with the way their mouths are opening and the gothic apartment seems to be reminiscent of some of the setpieces from his movies. It's got a lot of his influences showing through, which is a great thing!

The book is very good and I can't wait for the next two to come out now. Go and get it if you can!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pandorum: flying under the radar?

I saw Pandorum last week in the theaters and I am quite surprised I haven't heard much of anything about the movie. I was intrigued by the premise and was hoping to see a decent horror flick. But that was not what I got...

What I actually got was a good horror movie. No, it was a very good horror movie. I was pleasantly surprised by Pandorum. The basic premise of the movie is that the Earth was overpopulated and they had to find an alternate planet to colonize. They find one that is as close to Earth as you can get, so they launch a giant transport ship towards the planet. There are flight crews that are scheduled to work in shifts of two years and flight crew 4 has just woken up. Because of the after effects of hypersleep, they don't have all their memories, but they remember certain aspects of what they were supposed to do on the ship. Only the ship isn't working correctly and they weren't woken up by the previous flight crew, but instead by the ship somehow. And to make matters worse, there are a bunch of weird creatures stalking the people onboard. As the survivors start piecing together what happened, they find that pandorum (space dementia) may have something to do with their current situation.

The ending gets a little convoluted, but it works pretty well with the movie as a whole. The creatures are well done and greatly resemble the cave crawlers from The Descent, but they are tougher to kill in this movie. The movie keeps a very good, tense atmosphere the entire time and Ben Foster carries the movie with ease. I have liked him a lot in pretty much everything I have seen him in, so it's not a huge surprise that he is so good. But he is the linchpin of the movie (main character, in a lot of scenes on his own), so it was nice to see someone that could keep your interest easily. There are some really great sequences in the movie and it is quite freaky in a few parts.

I just can't figure out why this isn't getting more buzz in the horror community. It's not a perfect movie, by any means, but it's a great blend of Sci-Fi and Horror and makes for a fun theater experience. If you have a chance to see it (especially on the big screen), please do! It's one of the best horror movies I've seen recently, and that's a pretty good considering all the horror that has been out recently. It's Event Horizon meets The Descent with just a dash of Alien thrown in for good measure. If that doesn't sell you, then I don't know what will!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Zombies are the new vampires?

I recently saw this article over on IMDB and thought I had to retort. So read why zombies are not the new vampires first and then come back here for a response.

Done reading it? Well, it doesn't really matter, the fact is this article is wrong. It says that "zombies are the new vampires". With the release of Zombieland (a great movie), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (a great book), and Jennifer's Body (a noticeably NOT zombie film, but instead one about demonic possession), apparently zombies are threatening to take over popular culture. It talks about how zombies will never supplant vampires in popularity because people find vampires sexy and blah blah blah.

Not that I really care that much either way (though I am far more of a zombie man than a "fang banger", to use some True Blood parlance), but I would have to point out that the vampire craze came to the public in the last couple of years. Sure, Dracula was written a long time ago, but the vampire craze has really taken off pretty recently. That's all well and good, but from a horror movie fan's perspective, they are the latecomers. With The Zombie Survival Guide being published 6 years ago and all kinds of people planning out the zombie apocalypse strategies for years now, vampires are really coming to the party a bit late.

The article even compares vampires to the "hot popular crowd" and zombies to the "Goth theater kids". I have two issues with this: first of all, that's great. That means zombie fans don't have to talk to a bunch of 12 year old girls about how much they loved Twilight. It separates true horror fans from the posers. The ones who waited in line to see Paranormal Activity opening night and bought Trick R Treat the day it came out from the people that didn't know Quarantine was a remake or didn't know Let The Right One In was the best vampire movie last year (or ever). Secondly, when did vampires suddenly not get compared to Goth kids? Did I miss that? Look no further than Google (which is God, apparently) for a comparison.

Google image search for vampire.

Google image search for zombie.

Which one looks more goth to you?

In any event, I don't think zombies will ever achieve the same popularity vampires will. I agree with the article on that point. But they aren't trying to be. Zombies will always be the lesser of the monsters, but that's exactly what they are trying to be. Zombies aren't the flashy show-offs vampires are, they're the ones that lurk in the shadows and wait for you to come past. I don't see people putting together vampire bar crawls, but the zombie bar crawl is all over the place. Vampires may have more fans, but they just can't match the tenacity of zombies.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Trick R Treat Review

Well, I was not feeling particularly well today, so I decided to stay home from work. And I figured it would be a perfect time to watch my newly purchased Trick R Treat DVD. Finally, the greatly anticipated horror anthology came to DVD. But before I watched it, I decided to rewatch Creepshow to get myself in the right anthology mood. Also, it gave me a benchmark to compare against. I won't bother you guys with a plot summary because it's actually 4 movies within one really. There are some kids that died in a bus crash, an old man who no one likes, a principal that apparently kills people, and some girls looking to party in the middle of the woods. All the stories intersect several times and it follows all of them throughout the entire film.

*If you don't know my criteria for judging movies, here you go!*

Cinematography: The movie is very well shot. There are some incredibly well framed scenes and overall a great range of shots from close ups to nice far shots. The mise-en-scene for the movie is pretty amazing, giving it a cold, creepy feel from the very beginning. It reminded me of a chilly, October night in Wisconsin with red leaves on the trees and everything looking as though a cold rain had just fallen. The entire tone of the movie fits this very well and it just looks impressive. This is an easy 4 out of 5 for Cinematography.

Execution: While horror anthologies are nothing new, they aren't exactly everywhere. And to see one that is well done is something even rarer, so watching Trick R Treat was a blast for me. I love the intersecting stories. That was what impressed me the most about Trick R Treat: every time you watched one of the stories, you saw one of the characters from the other stories in the background. Or a person from a previous story is suddenly a victim in another story. The whole movie keeps everything very well interwoven. While the stories aren't anything ridiculously original, they definitely aren't cliche. The movie effortlessly keeps you wrapped up in the stories and characters, and for that it receives a 4.5 out of 5 for Execution.

Sub-genre Comparison: Well, as far as horror anthologies go, there's only one you really need to compare it to in my mind: Creepshow. Trick R Treat doesn't have the same pulpy fun feel that Creepshow does, but it's not trying for that. On a purely qualitative comparison, Trick R Treat is as good as Creepshow. That's saying quite a bit too. It's better than Creepshow 2 or Body Bags (both of which I enjoyed but wasn't in love with). It's really refreshing to see something like this come around and it's as good as anything this sub-genre has to offer, so I guess that gives it a 5 out of 5 for Sub-genre Comparison.

Production Value: The movie looks great. It's scenery is amazing, the blood and make-up effects are very good, and they didn't use very much CGI, if any at all. That last thing is a huge plus for me. About the only thing I could complain about is that some of the effects were shown a little too long (when Sam's mask is off, for instance), but the effects are very good and hold up. You can tell some real effort went into the look of the movie and if there wasn't a lot of budget, they fooled me well with it. For Production Value, it's got me with a 4.5 out of 5.

Scares: This might be the lowest point of the review because the movie wasn't particularly scary to me. However, this movie is not going for balls-out scare tactics. It's tense when it needs to be and the atmosphere keeps it creepy for most of the movie, but it never reaches the point to where I was stirring in my seat (after 15 years of horror movies, I still do sometimes and I love it). That being said, the movie is very much kitschy, creepy fun and will definitely keep you entertained. It's not as scary as some movies, but it's also not trying to be, going for more story telling than horrifying. It earns a well deserved 3.5 out of 5 for Scares.

All that being said, Trick R Treat gets a very nice 21.5. out of 25 on my meaningless, arbitrary scale. But that doesn't mean that I won't urge you to see this as soon as you can. It's a very well done movie and I enjoyed watching it immensely. It was worth all the hype, and it's a great entry for American horror! Go get it!

Monday, October 5, 2009

My triumphant return

Yeah, so it's been a while, but I have been on hiatus with work being stupidly busy. Oh well, it seems people have still been reading this thing, so I should probably keep writing it. I'll just have a brief update on what I have seen recently that is horror related. I'll be sure to write some more in-depth reviews in a bit, but here's something to whet your appetite with!

Zombieland: Pretty sure everyone should see this movie at some point in their lives. I can't decide if this or Shaun of the Dead is a better zombie comedy (zomedy) and that's quite the feat since Shaun of the Dead is one of my all-time favorite movies, let alone zomedies. It's a blast. I went in expecting gratuitous zombie violence and a few Woody Harrelson jokes, and got all of that plus a cameo by Bill Murray (I know, it may seem like it's a secret to some people, but he's the 6th person listed on the IMDB credit page). It's amazing.

9: An interesting little animated film. Visually very arresting and I couldn't look away from the screen, but the plot was a little weak. The voice acting was great, but really the story was kind of bland. However, the plot/story was good enough to keep your interest, so I would recommend seeing it, if for no other reason than the animation being awesome.

The Quick and The Undead: Yeah, I watched it via Netflix instant view. My thoughts: don't watch it. Watch "The Quick and The Dead" instead, which is also on instant view. Plus that one's directed by Sam Raimi.

H2: I wanted to like it, seeing as how I actually enjoyed Zombie's re-imagining of Halloween (though it was nothing compared to the original), but it wasn't very good. I just can't bring myself to get behind this movie. It hurts me to say that, but Zombie failed on this one.

Grace: I was pretty damn excited about this movie, especially because of all the hype Johnny over at Freddy In Space had been doing for it. I watched it and it left me with a resounding "meh". It wasn't bad and was an interesting story, but overall it was just kind of blah. It wasn't very scary and never really drew me in. I would recommend seeing it because it's refreshing to see some original American horror, but it's nothing that I want to watch over and over again.

Wrong Turn 2: I finally watched this movie after hearing so many good things about it and I have to say that if Henry Rollins weren't in it, I wouldn't have enjoyed any part of the movie. The characters pissed me off, the rednecks were on screen too much, and the movie just sort of felt like it was trying too hard. That's not to say there aren't some satisfying kills, but it is a pretty mediocre offering, especially because the first Wrong Turn actually surprised me with how good it was. Maybe if it hadn't been so hyped up to me.

Paranormal Activity: The movie that has been stuck in development hell for the last 2 years is finally released to select theaters, one of which is right here in Madison, WI! I saw the movie the other night and it was not that bad. I wouldn't call it the scariest movie ever like some people had been lauding it, but it was quite well done and the scary parts are pretty damn scary. I have to applaud it for the final scene, which was very satisfying. It was a movie that I need to watch again because I saw it at a midnight showing and was a bit drunk (so my attention span was less than stellar), but I definitely enjoyed it.

So that's what I have for you for now. I am writing a more in-depth review of Grace and will be picking up Trick R Treat tomorrow (finally!), so expect a review of that as well. I have missed writing! Back to the grind for now!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quentin Tarantino and Horror

After watching Inglorious Basterds this weekend, I was suddenly struck with a little bit of wonder: does Tarantino actually know how to make a movie anymore?

While the shots are great and the acting quite good, the action of Basterds falls quite short, with a lot of boring exposition between some truly great action scenes. I wanted to like Basterds, I really did, but ultimately, it was Tarantino trying to write Tarantino-esque dialogue... and failing.

I was not enthralled by the characters (aside from Brad Pitt's Aldo Raine and the Jew Hunter) and it was just overall very bland film making. It was too bad, but almost worth sitting through 2 hours of stuff for the 45 minutes of awesome action scenes that were contained within. Sorry Johnny, but I just can't get behind this movie. I know this all seems like a bit of a tangent, but it brings me to my previous point of Tarantino knowing how to make a movie.

He started off with a couple of bangs: Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Then Jackie Brown and Kill Bill followed up more than amply. Then we get to the grindhouse feature of Death Proof.

Much like Basterds, Death Proof, to me at least, was Tarantino trying too hard to write the dialogue that made him famous. But he failed. And the thing about Death Proof wasn't that it was a bad movie. I would have liked it a lot more if it wasn't a part of the Grindhouse features. I can handle a bit of dialogue. I can even handle the inordinately large amount of dialogue in Death Proof. But what I cannot handle is a "grindhouse" film that is 2/3 dialogue.

Grindhouse films, by definition, are all about one thing: exploitation. Whether it be sex, violence, or both (or maybe race), something has to be entirely blown out of proportions. It's over the top, it's action packed, it's fast moving and quick to be done. Death Proof is none of that. A grindhouse film with what amounts to basically 2 action scenes is not a grindhouse film. It's a dull horror film that gets praised because of a name attached to it. Look at the other half: Planet Terror. It's fast moving, gross as hell, and full of stupid one liners. It's quick to kill anyone off, you see a kid die, and all kinds of pus is splattered everywhere. It's basically the perfect homage to a grindhouse film.

Death Proof plods along (especially the extended version of the film) and fails miserably as a grindhouse flick. The worst part of that is the fact that we know Tarantino can write grindhouse. You want proof?

From Dusk Til Dawn, while directed by Robert "Planet Terror" Rodriguez, was written by Tarantino. It was amazing. It was fun. It was what a good grindhouse film should be. Why can't he do that again?

I think what has happened is that Tarantino has lost some of his fun in filmmaking. I will never dispute that he has made some amazing films. In fact, he doesn't make movies, he makes films. He is an auteur. But sometimes I feel like he is losing his focus on having a little fun and trying too hard with his dialogue. You see glimpses in Basterds, but unfortunately, he can't keep it focused. It's too bad, because it could have been so much more...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Zombie Politics and Other Quick Updates

I just read a nice little piece about how different political parties would react to a zombie attack. I have to say, it's an interesting read. You can find the article here.

Also, I apologize for my lack of updates. Life has been a bit of a hectic experience lately and I am starting to figure some of it out, I think. I won't bore you with details, but it's akin to a soap opera right now (due to my own doings).

I did see Orphan and District 9 recently, both of which I had heard good things about. My general thoughts:

Orphan: An interesting flick with some pretty good scenes in it. The problem was that ultimately it wasn't anything for me that really caught my attention. It was okay, but I really don't have any desire to see it again. For me it was a fairly bland entry that I would recommend, but not extol the virtues of.

District 9: Yep, I really liked it like most everyone else. The parallels to apartheid, the acting, the story, and the gun that explodes people were all incredibly enjoyable for me. Yes, a gun that literally just blows people up is featured. I really liked it. I do realize that it is more Sci-fi than anything else, but it's still good for horror fans to see.

That's all I have for now!

Friday, August 7, 2009

I Love Sarah Jane

Johnny over at Freddy In Space put this up a couple days ago, but I have to steal it for my blog too. It's a little too good.

Enjoy the zombie short I Love Sarah Jane!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Horror's Best Graveyards

It's not a big deal for a scene in a horror movie to be based in a graveyard. Hell, some movies revolve around the premise of being in a graveyard. But not all cinematic graveyards are created equal. Most are pretty standard, bland offerings of granite tombstones and boring backgrounds. But every so often, you get a truly spectacular collection of mausoleums, an ossuary or two, and wonderful headstones. Or maybe it just happens to be placed in a great setting. In any event, here are some really wonderful examples of what a graveyard should look like:

Night of the Living Dead (1968): This cemetery really isn't anything spectacular in the terms of the actual headstones or structures, but the scenery around it is very nice. A serene, hilly setting makes for the perfect dichotomy of peaceful, resting dead and shambling, restless undead. The actual cemetery is known as Evans City Cemetery and is located in Pennsylvania (as everything Romero practically is). There is actually a great site showing the scenes from the movie next to what it looks like today.

Cemetery Man (1994):

The cemetery in this flick is pretty much the quintessential horror movie resting place: gothic statues of angels and death, ornate mausoleums, strange people tending to it, and zombies. I really like this movie and have watched it many times, but the cemetery scenery never ceases to amaze me. I love watching it over and over again to find some new building or bit of scenery every time. A nice contrast to the simple NOTLD cemetery mentioned previously.

Pet Sematary (1989):

The "sematary" in question is deep in the woods, the entrance is marked by creepy rock formations, and is mired by the loss of beloved family friends. It doesn't get much sadder or freakier than this folks. The movie itself is very good and has so many creepy things going for it anyway, but the set design of the cemetery itself just makes it all the better. And that little kid. It makes me shudder just thinking about it.

The Omen (1976):

One the most classic graveyard scenes of all time is the dog attack from the original Omen movie. The fog hangs thick, the walls are huge, and the scare factor is a 10. Gregory Peck goes searching for his child's true mother to discover the grave is inhabited by a decaying dog corpse. With brambles and eerie trees jutting out from every corner, The Omen's graveyard might have easily overdone the ominous scenery, but instead finds a nice balance and makes for a picturesque horror cemetery.

Sleepy Hollow (1999):

I am a sucker for anything Tim Burton, but I can't help it. Everything about his movies reeks of style and thought. I love this particular graveyard because of the New England cottages behind and the creepy woods surrounding it. On the one hand, you get this serene village, on the other, a foggy, desolate wood. Tim Burton could make a DMV look stylistic and I would love every minute of it.

Some honorable mentions: Dead Alive, Dead Silence, Repo! The Genetic Opera, and Zombie.

These are the ones that I could come up with, so now I open up the comments for my readers' suggestions.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

There Are Zombies in My Living Room

Yep, you read that title correctly. Every so often, I get together with some friends and we kill zombies in my living room. And no, there are no video games involved. We actually do this...

... with some dice. The board game is called "Last Night on Earth" and in a nutshell, it's Risk, but with zombies.

Go ahead and re-read that last sentence and tell me that's not awesome.

So it is a bit more complex than that, but essentially, you have four people that are heroes and two that are zombies (you can play with fewer than six, but it's best with a full 6). The game involves different scenarios playing out in a number of turns and the heroes having to accomplish specific goals. Sometimes they have to find gas to get into a truck and drive off, sometimes they have to defend a house from the horde, and other times they merely have to kill off a certain number of zombies. It's a really fun time and I would recommend it to anyone.

Check out the game's website to order it or go to your local game shop to get a copy! It's well worth it!

And did I mention the game comes with IT'S OWN FREAKING SOUNDTRACK?

And also, I apologize for the lack of updates lately. I promise to remedy this!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Can You Survive A Horror Movie?

An interesting proposition, isn't it? I know that we all watch horror movies and think to ourselves, "If that were me, I would totally __________. I would definitely survive this." I can't blame anyone for thinking that, mostly because I do that all the time. The fact of the matter is that most of us probably wouldn't survive if we were being stalked by an unkillable murderer with super strength. We would do the same things as all horror victims: run up the stairs instead of out the door, try to hide instead of running away, or fall down as we run away (the last one is relevant to me as I am 6'3" and uncoordinated at best). Luckily for me, I have read something that will help me survive:

I got this book from Amazon a bit ago and read it cover to cover a couple of times (it's a pretty fun and simple read). I have to give it to Seth Grahame-Smith, he knows his stuff on how to survive a horror movie. The book breaks it down on how to survive each sub-genre and how to keep yourself in one piece. It gives advice on how to dress (sexy clothes = bad, parkas = good), how to convince a cop to believe you (a bloody limb is best), and even on how to defeat the mildly inbred killer that's stalking you (shiny things and moonshine). Although with that last entry, I think the most effective way of killing them would be Henry Rollins, a bow and arrow, and explosives, but hey, that's just me.

The book does a good job of introducing you to the "terrorverse", or the universe that horror movies exist in. In this universe, it's night time about 20 hours a day and you have very little chance of survival. Things are seen through blue filters at night as you walk through abandoned neighborhoods inhabited by the undead. In the terrorverse, everything is working against you except for this book. It's an interesting concept and the screenwriter is your God in this universe. You had better be aware of cliches and warnings in your world or you will not survive!

Overall the book is a great little read. While I didn't entirely agree with him on some of the points, Grahame-Smith does a pretty damn good job of outlining how to survive. And if you are reading this right now with some creepy background noise and things moving outside of your window, maybe you should order a copy now. It might just save your life!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane Review

I recently watched the much hyped All The Boys Love Mandy Lane slasher. I took a little time to digest the movie and decided to write a review about what I thought. So, let's hear what the hype is all about, shall we?

The movie opens with a scene at a party where Mandy Lane and her male friend are hanging out with people that are far more popular than they are. The male friend is made fun of to no end, but Mandy is hot, so she just gets a bunch of attention from all the jocks at the party. One of them starts arguing with the male friend on a roof and the friend convinces the jock to jump off the roof into the pool below to impress Mandy. Of course, he doesn't make it, dies, and the male friend is thusly ostracized for the rest of high school.

Fast forward a couple of years and we find Mandy is still hot and still the desire of all the boys (as the title would suggest). Mandy goes with some friends to a ranch in the middle of nowhere to have some fun. The ranch hand is there to watch over them, and everything seems to go well. Nothing bad could ever happen from a group of teens drinking in the middle of nowhere, especially when death is already established as a big part of their lives. Well, except for a killer stalking them and killing them off one by one. That could happen, I guess.

And happen it does. The kids are stalked by none other than the male friend from the beginning (trust me, it's not a secret in the movie, so I didn't just give anything away) and they are killed in fairly gruesome ways. And then, in a great finale, something twist-like happens that you will never see coming (or maybe you will like I did)!

Cinematography: I have to hand it to the movie, Mandy Lane is well shot. It's got some good camerawork and interesting shot angles. The color palette is intriguing, mostly skewing towards the yellows and browns, giving it a very washed out look. It's an artistic looking movie, and that makes it pretty easy to watch. However, it isn't anything I haven't seen before or been done better recently. It was fun to watch, but it wasn't revolutionary. However, it was pretty exceptionally well shot for a horror movie, so it gets 4 out of 5 for Cinematography.

Execution: It's a slasher film. That involves teens doing drugs/alcohol and getting picked off by a stalking killer. We're not breaking new ground here. It was a good slasher though, and it held some conventions pretty well. The characters are pretty cookie cutter high school stereotypes (jocks that only want girls, girls that only want sex from popular boys, one druggie friend that doesn't really fit), but you are supposed to dislike them. It succeeds in making you root for the right people, that's for sure. The acting is ample, but not exactly Oscar-worthy. However, they aren't reading Shakespeare, so it works for the material at hand. It was kind of a bland offering at times, engaging in others, so Mandy Lane gets 3 out of 5 for Execution.

Sub-Genre Comparison: It's pretty well documented that I am not a huge slasher fan, so I wasn't entirely excited to watch this movie. I did make it through, though I would rather have watched Cold Prey or The Cottage. Mandy Lane is better than most standard slasher fare and it's not a remake, so it has that leg up on most of the competition. As far as recent slashers, it's a good entry. As far as comparing it to Halloween or Friday the 13th (originals), it can't compare. The filmmakers did a good job, but it was not a movie that I am going to be striving to watch over and over like Carpenter's Halloween. All things considered, it was better than most, so Mandy Lane gets 3 out 5 for Sub-Genre Comparison.

Production Value: This movie looks much better than most and you can't tell the budget by looking at it. The sets are great and the ranch is an interesting setting to say the least. The blood/gore was quite well done and not over the top. The kills weren't anything to write home about, but they looked good and so did the aftermath. It didn't look too CGI or anything like that, so logically it should hold up pretty well in the future. The movie looks more like a big budget movie than a low budget movie, so it succeeds in that respect. Overall, it earns a respectable 3 out of 5 for Production Value.

Scares: As far as slashers go, they are about as scary as girl scout troops to me. I mean, a good one can get some tension out there and make some great scares, but rarely does a slasher do that for me. Mandy Lane manages a bit of tension in parts, but overall is pretty stale on the scare front. The characters have a bit of a feeling of isolation, but really, it's hard to keep up when the characters could just run away from the ranch at any moment (and do at one point). Sure, they are in the middle of nowhere, but they never really feel that alone. The ranch hand manages to save the day a few times, so you don't get the sense of dread that you would normally in a movie like this. It wasn't without it's good scenes though, so I can give it 3 out of 5 for Scares.

And the final tally chalks Mandy Lane up to 16 out of 25. Basically, it didn't make me want to stop the movie, but it didn't make me want to buy it. It was a pretty respectable entry for slashers, but isn't worth the hype of it not being released for such a long time (it has been notoriously held from release for quite a while now). All The Boys Love Mandy Lane was a good movie to watch, but I don't really want to watch it again. I can't stand most twist endings, but this one was okay. It wasn't like The Sixth Sense, but it wasn't bad enough to do a Pointless Twist Endings entry on it. I would say if you like slashers to see it, but you can wait for it to be legal to obtain.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Evil Things Reminder!

The screening is tonight! See this movie! For the information, see my post a couple below this one!

Hollywood Horror

As any movie person will tell you, horror has become a much more prevalent genre in the last 10 years, largely due to the success of the Scream movies (and a few others). However, for some reason, this has not really improved the number of quality horror movies that have come out in the years since. Well, at least not the horror movies that Hollywood releases. The majority of major American horror movie releases are pretty terrible, usually very watered down and bland (and often times painfully un-scary). With a few notable exceptions (Cloverfield, Quarantine, The Ring, Dawn of the Dead, Drag Me To Hell), most of Hollywood's horror movie entries have fallen very flat.

And the worst part is that I keep going to see them, thinking that they might actually be good. And I am often very disappointed. There's the upcoming release Orphan that I will undoubtedly see, but I have a feeling I will be disappointed. But it's the same principle I take with the straight to DVD horror that I pick up and watch unknowingly: I will gladly wade through several godawful Hollywood pictures to find the one that is actually worth watching. So, on that note, I will give you a few recent duds and some alternatives to watch instead. Hopefully this helps you in your quest for good horror!

*I tried to stay away from remakes, but it's harder than I thought*

Hollywood Dud: The Unborn
Problem with it: Aside from the fact that Odette Yustman is quite attractive, this movie has very little going for it. Sure, Gary Oldman is in it, but he can't stop this trainwreck. It's extraordinarily predictable and not scary in the least. It takes a nice premise and squanders it with shots of Yustman jogging (how do you squander something with that?). It basically stumbles through a story that you don't care about and ends poorly.
What you should watch instead: If you are into freaky kids and evil spirits, there's always Dead Birds or The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Or if you are in a classic mood, try The Omen for a creepy kid overdose (the original movie, not the travesty of a remake).

Hollywood Dud: Skinwalkers
Problem with it: Yes, I actually watched it. I can't even begin to tell you how poorly acted and blase this movie was. Skinwalkers was like watching a high school werewolf play with a big budget. It was an interesting story idea, but it was an uninteresting movie.
What you should watch instead: Dog Soldiers and Black Sheep are both much better were-animal movies than this one was. Weird how they are both foreign...

Hollywood Dud: Pulse
Problem with it: Another bland Japanese re-make with a cast from the CW network (Veronica Mars, Reaper), the movie sucked the life out of the original. There was no chemistry with the cast and the effects were needlessly apparent. They could have made much scarier ghosts with simpler effects. Most of the time, simpler is better for ghosts. Every once in a while an elaborate ghost does well (The Devil's Backbone), but in general, simple effects make things seem more real.
What you should watch instead: The Signal. Same basic principle (electric devices make shit go crazy), but it's well acted, funny at parts, and all around a blast to watch.

Hollywood Dud: Prom Night
Problem with it: Stop with the remakes. It was another poorly acted/written affair with characters you didn't care about. It's a formulaic slasher with pretty uninteresting deaths in it. Just don't see it.
What you should watch instead: The Midnight Meat Train is one of my favorite slasher flicks of all time. Wildly inventive and crazily artistic, just see it.

Hollywood Dud: Mirrors
Problem with it: Alexandre Aja, a great director, made this crap unfortunately. It was watching Jack Bauer yell at inanimate objects for an hour and a half. The jaw ripping scene was pretty intense and well done, but other than that nothing was memorable. I am hoping Aja does well with his upcoming Piranha 3-D.
What you should watch instead: Looking for a spooky ghost tale? Wind Chill or even The Messengers should serve your purpose quite well.

There you go. I just don't get why everyone of the Hollywood movies feels the need to be shot through a blue filter to make everything seem, well, bluer. It makes no sense to me. Any thoughts?