Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween - 2009

Happy Halloween from The O'Choke!

May it be filled with the macabre, demons, blood sacrafices, and candy!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

The October Horror Movie Gauntlet

The Next Five Days

Oct. 24 - Hocus Pocus (1993) - It had been years since I had seen this one, and it's actually a sort of fun ride. It's a fairly fun kids movie with some kind of funny sequence, but it is totally scare-free. You notice I'm not using in real definitive terms here. That's because the movie left me really teetering on the edge. It's not good, really, but it's not bad, completely anyway. It's just sort of there and might be worth a watch if there's nothing else on. When I was a kid I remeber really enjoying the movie, but watching as an adult I guess any magic that the film had is really kind of lost. Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that Sarah Jessica Parker looks pretty nice in her bodice, but I digress. Overall, the film gets a very mediocore 5/10

Oct. 23 - The Addams Family (1991) - I'm a very big fan of The Addams Family. Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of being in such a macabre familial setting, surround by loving, yet sinister family members. Obviously the show was fantastic as well, but I was really glad that they took it one step further in the film. It's a dark and hilarious film filled with some amazing gags and great choices in every role. Raul Julia really becomes his own Gomez, not really taking up where John Astin left off, but really creating a new character for himself. One thing that I have always wanted to see, in some alternate reality, would have been Tim Burton doing The Addams Family. I think that's tailor-made. And I could actually see him casting Johnny Depp in the Gomez role, to boot! 7.5/10

Oct. 22 - The Burning (1981) - I was kind of late to the party when it came to The Burning, only having seen it once it (finally) hit DVD. But, even with that being the case it has quickly become one of my favorite slashers of all time. There is certainly something about slashers from the early eighties that really pique my interest. There's a real DIY innocence to these films that is both endearing and ballsy that really makes me appreciate them on a level all their own. By now, I think everyone knows the story of how Tom Savini turned down Friday the 13th to work on this picture, and his expertise really benefitted the picture (especially in the raft scene - you know the one). Cropsy, while not as compelling as the Jason character, is a decent enough villain, the kills are great, and it's just a fun ride. In a genre where the majority of the films are poorly made, it's refreshing to find one that can stand on its own as a good movie. 6.5/10

Oct. 21 - A Nightmare on Elm St. (1984) - Looking back at the original film, it's easy to see how different the franchise could have been if it had stayed the course with the darker tone. In the first film, Freddy does act a little snarky, but he's nowhere near the Loki-esque prankster that he turns into in the subsequent films (especially Part Three and on). It would have been even more interesting to play him as an even darker character - maybe focusing on the atrocities he commited with the children whilst alive. I think the remake is actually supposed to address that while keeping the black mood alive. I hope so. I can honestly say that the ANOES remake is the only one that I would pay money to see. Not that I think Haley will be better than Englund, but it will be intersting to see a different take on the character. 8/10

Friday, October 23, 2009

Texas Frightmare Weekend

April 30 - May 2, 2010 - Dallas, TX

For the last couple of years I've made it out to Texas Frightmare Weekend. I enjoyed the first one that I attended, because I got my swag signed by both Tom Savini and George A. Romero. Last year was a little lack luster, with Tobe Hooper being the biggest draw. But I was looking at the guest list this year and I am super stoked.

This year Romero's back and we get John mothereffin' Carpenter. John Carpenter is the catalyst for my love of horror and all things camp. He is in my top five favorite directors and I love the majority of his pictures. Anyway, I was just so happy that I had to share the news.

For those interested, other guests include:

Doug Bradley
Sid Haig
Keir Dullea
Meg Foster
Lance Henriksen
Kane Hodder
William Katt
Margot Kidder
Bill Moseley
Betsy Palmer

That's a pretty good group! Henriksen and Bradley are definite must meet and greets. Here's the link to the site: Texas Frightmare Weekend

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Clip of the Week

Girls - Lust For Life (live on Pitchfork's Don't Look Down)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The October Horror Movie Gauntlet - 2009

The October Horror Movie Gauntlet - Five More Days

Oct. 20 - The Boogeyman (1980) - Utterly boring and scare-less, 1980's The Boogeyman was really hard for me to sit through. It's the story of a little boy who kills his mother's abusive boyfriend and then grows up a mute that's afraid of mirrors. His sister, a little frazzled herself, goes back to the house that they grew up in and breaks a mirror releasing unspeakable evil unto the world. Or something like that. You know when the Boogeyman is coming when a sliver of the broken mirror starts to glow red - red with EVIL! Yeah, it's stupid, but there is one fun seen of self-mutilation that will capture your interest. 2/10

Oct. 19 - My Best Friend is a Vampire (1987) - (review soon)

Oct. 18 - Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) - "Hey, you wanna see something really scary?" What a great prologue to the film. I'm a fan of anthology flicks, and this is one of the best. Of course, some of the best episodes from the series are represented here in the form of remakes and everything is taken care of by very capable people (Landis, Dante, Spielberg, Miller). There are four segments for you to enjoy here, each one being very entertaining. The movie is actually really fun, in the same that Creepshow is. There's a playful tone, even in the more serious stories (aside from the first segement - which Vic Morrow was tragically killed while shooting). That's something that may not have been present in the original series, but is certainly appreciated in the movie. I'm not sure what else actually needs to be said about the film, as most of you have probably already seen it. If you haven't, know that it is better than the 6.3 that it gets on the IMDb. My score: 7/10.

Oct. 17 - Missed yet another day. I've definitely failed.

Oct. 16 - Re-Animator (1985) - I am of the opinion that Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator is still the best horror comedy out there. All the elements collide to make one fantastic and ghoulish "splat-stick" comedy. You take a story by Lovecraft, mix in great gags, the beautiful Barbara Crampton, Stuart Gordon, and the campy delight that is Jeffrey Combs and you've got one fine picture. For the uninitiated, Re-Animator is the story of young Herbert West, a brilliant medical student who continues his former master's research into re-animating dead tissue. Of course, things go awry and the blood starts flowing.I don't know what else needs to be said about the film, but you would be hard pressed to find a more fun horror flick. 8/10

Monday, October 19, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

The October Horror Movie Gauntlet - 2009

The Next, Next Five Days

Oct. 15 - Laid to Rest* - Earlier this year I went to a panel discussion of this films that included director Robert Hall, and a handful of cast members. It wasn't particularly enlightening, but it was pretty fun. The only problem was that we had missed the screening of the film that they were talking about. When I finally watched it, I realized I hadn't really "missed" that much. Pretty generic little slasher here, played without any irony (which is usually good) but completely devoid of atmosphere, which is a clear sign of incompetence behind the camera. And the story. Wait...what story? Who needs a story when you've got some truly excellent gore effects? At least that's what the thinking seemed to be when making this film. I will emphasise that the special effects are particularly nasty and may make it worth a watch for you gore hounds out there. But even the best grue can't save a meandering film like this from being anything more than mediocre. And, honestly, do we really think that Chrome Skull is "totally sweet fuh realz!" (to paraphrase from some message boards)? To sum up, mediocre is the word of the day for Laid to Rest. 5/10

Oct. 14 - Curtains (1983)* - When I popped my DVD of Curtains (ripped from a Vestron Video VHS) into the ol' DVD player I was really hoping I was about to watch an undiscovered (at least by me) gem. What I got was a tame, somewhat interesting, but nigh bloodless slasher. The story revolves around a group of actresses that are all invited to a house to audition for the role of a lifetime. But someone is unhappy with this arrangement and begins to knock them off - one by one. Not a terrible premise by any means, and the story actually plays out pretty well. There's also a pivotal part of the story involving Samantha Eggar, but I'll spare you the not-so-gory details. Overall, it's just a little south of par - the actors do a good job, and the story is fairly decent, but there is little to no excitement in the picture at all. The kills are almost are terrible, uninventive, and without tension. And that happens to be a big part of a slasher. Most second and third tier slashers from the eighties fall in one of two categories: terrible and a waste of time or really bad, but still fun to watch. Curtains falls somewhere in the middle. 4/10

Oct. 13 - I've failed you yet again, and didn't get one watched.

Oct. 12 - Trick 'r Treat (2008)* - I was really going to try to wait until Halloween night to watch this one, but I just couldn't wait any longer. I mean, come on, if you're up on your horror you've been waiting at least a year for this one. Was it worth the wait? For the most part, yeah, it was. It's not going to take the place of John Carpenter's seminal Halloween as the must watch flick on Halloween night, mainly because there aren't a lot of actual scares, but it is going to be a fun piece of October film watching for the rest of my life. The movie is stunningly shot, well acted, and often really funny. Full disclosure here; I have a soft spot for Dylan Baker and Anna Paquin (for different reasons, however). The best thing about the film? The film-makers ability to capture the essence of Halloween. It's been said before, but I'm not sure that there are any films that more accurately portray the Halloween vibe. That aside, the movie to best compare it is Creepshow, obviously because they are both anthology films. There are other reasons I think they compare as well. For instance, they are both supposed to be comic books come to life and they both feature their own brand of gruesome comedy. The biggest difference in the two is the way they are formatted - instead of each segment being a standalone story (ala Creepshow) the tales in Trick 'r Treat all piece together as part of the same world on the same night. 7.5/10

Oct. 11 - Dark Floors (2008)* - Dark Floors is a pretty stupid movie, but it's not stupid in the way I thought it would be. You see, Dark Floors is sometimes dubbed as "The Lordi Motion Picture" because it stars the dark glam metal band (that's what I call them - think Kiss in Gwar's garb) Lordi. And the concept is also credited to the band. So, going into it, what could you expect but a mindless slaughterfest? If that's what you are looking for, look elsewhere, because Dark Floors attempts to be far more cerebral than that. I think that it fails on a lot of levels, but it's not an entirely terrible effort. The film is about a group of people in a hospital that appears to fall into some terrible, demonic state of limbo, led by a young, autistic girl who seems to know more than she lets on. I won't give away the ending or the main plot twists or anything, but let's just say you don't see it coming, but you've seen it before - even if it makes less sense this time. There's also a surprising lack of grue that is disheartening to say the least. 4/10

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The October Horror Movie Gauntlet - 2009

The October Horror Movie Gauntlet 2009:
The Next Five Days

Oct. 10
- The Signal (2007)* - With a plot pretty much hijacked from Stephen King's Cell (although they may have been written around the same time), The Signal is a halfway decent coming out party for newcomers Dan Bush and David Bruckner. The story revolves around a search for a missing girl in a world that has been thrown completely into chaos as the result of a telecommunications signal. The actors do a fine job in convincing us they are strattling the line between sanity and murderous lunacy and the story progresses fairly well as the directors employ a time manipulation technique similar to Pulp Fiction to advance the plot. It would have been nice to see the bigger picture here. I wanted to know whether this one a confined phenomenon (doubtful) or if the whole world had gone mad? And, if so, let's see some large scale violence! Of course, budget constraints may play a role in not being able to show such grandiose bloodletting, but it would have definitely kept me more interested than the leads incessantly going on about "Mya" (the lost girl). It's a fun movie, with lots of great gags and some fantastic grue and a possibly lifted plot. What else do you want from it? 6/10

Oct. 9 - Paranormal Activity (2007)* - I'm a little torn when it comes to the phenomenon that is Paranormal Activity. I went and watched it in a packed house in Dallas, the place was sold completely out. The most interesting thing about the film is how it is has become such a phenomenon, coming from out of nowhere with a grass roots, internet viral-marketing campaign to become the most talked about film of the season - that's no small feat! Of course, as is usually the case with films that have done the "found footage - true story" thing (Blair Witch, Cannibal Holocaust), the marketing behind it is better, and more interesting, than the film itself. That's not to say Paranormal Activity is a bad movie, it's not, it's jut not a terrific film. There is a rather engrossing story (once it builds steam), the effects are effective, if cheap, and there is a very tense atmosphere sustained throughout. On the other hand, the first twenty minutes are fairly boring, the story, while it works, is trite, the scares are easy and too sparse, and the ending is a bit of a let down. Overall the experience of Paranormal Activity (and being part of the phenomenon) overshadows the film itself, but the film alone still has enough merit to make it requisite viewing material for anyone looking for theatrical horror this year. But, if you want to check out a similar type of film that is truly great, watch Spain's [rec] as soon as you can. 6.5/10

Oct. 8 - Them (Ils) (2006)* - Them presents an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand the major problem with Them is common with most horror films, at least in those films that attempt to evoke empathy from the audience, you just don't care. This is almost inherent in movies of this nature because of the constraints in time. With horror you have to deliver the goods in a timely manner that constitutes the majority of the run time. So what gets short shrift? Character development and exposition. Now sometimes we are able to see an arc of a character through growth which is perpetuated by the trauma, but this is rare. On the other hand directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud are able to maintain a very palpable sense of tension throughout their film, in spite of or because of this fact. Perhaps it is easier to transpose ourselves onto the characters and vicariously experience the events of the film if they are fairly faceless and therefore it's easy to replace them with us. This may be less a review, and more a commentary, but it is an interesting aspect to horror film making. In all truth, Them is an easy film to make. It's effective for what it is, but never attempts to reach beyond the limitations that hinder it. 6/10

Oct. 7 - Prom Night (2008) * - I knew this one would be pretty bad when it started out with a terrible cover of The Zombies "Time of the Season". This movie is pretty much a waste of time. Saccharin scares, bad acting, recycled (though not necessarily from Prom Night) plot, and forgettable characters all kind of add up to a muddled mess of a movie. The whole thing feels obscenely rushed. And I know that it was PG-13, but I watched the unrated cut and there was nary any flesh to be seen! A fatal flaw with all the nubile young "talent" that was in this train wreck. That leads me to problem number two; if you aren't going to have a story at least show us some grue! But this film is nigh bloodless. The story is something about an obsessed teacher who kills his students family after she becomes the object of his affection, gets caught, breaks out, and finds her all over again. Not exactly treading any new ground here, but it is interesting for a remake to completely ignore the plot of its source material. No big loss there, I'm not too big on the first one anyway. Now Prom Night 2: Hello Mary Lou is another story. 2/10

Oct. 6 - Missed this day due to a work function. Will watch two on another day to make up for it.

* denotes first time viewing

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Warfreak on Kindertrauma

Hey, gang, I just wanted to mention that yours truly was featured on one of my favorite websites out there - Kindertrauma. Check out my submission here and leave a comment.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The October Horror Movie Gauntlet - 2009

The First Five Days:

During the month of October, I will be keeping a running diary of all the horror films I watch, complete with mini-reviews. Listed here are the horror flicks that I've watched in the first five days of October - I'll be splitting my posts up in this manner so that I don't end up with one huge post.

Oct. 5Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007)* - This is a fun little Canadian picture that’s probably a little more action/comedy than horror, but counts nonetheless because the protagonist slays monsters. Jack Brooks is not a particularly smart film or anything like that, but it does manage to be both funny and rather intense. The casting of Robert Englund (aka: Freddy) as a science professor helps score some automatic cool points, and he does a relatively good job. One thing I want to point out is that when we are first introduced to Englund’s character, he is basically word for word repeating the speech given by the science teacher in 1986’s Slaughter High. He also finishes with the same exact experiment. Now, I’m sure that is coincidental because I don’t believe that anyone is really trying to filch anything from Slaugher High, but it’s pretty weird. Overall, homage to The Evil Dead and all, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is a fun and generally well-made picture that should satiate your bloodlust and your sense of humor. 6/10

Oct. 4 - Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers* - SPOILERS AHEAD: Angela returns (only this time played by a different actress) to re-establish her role as the number one camp killer around. It's actually not a terrible slasher to add to the cannon as there are some creative kills, a continuing mythos, a decent cast of characters, and an unparalleled grab bag of mullets to be seen! This time around we find that somehow Angela has obtained a job as a counsellor at a summer camp, but she still hasn't changed her ways. She creatively kills off the campers that she deems morally unfit by using a power drill, guitar string, knives, a chainsaw, and anything else she can get her hands on. Interestingly, they pay homage to three of the four biggies by having characters dress up like Leatherface, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger. The distributors seem to have really played up this fact on every home video release of the film, always including some visual reference to them. A fun gag or an easy cashgrab? You decide. None of this takes away from what the movie is - a fun, hack and slash ride that is less a good movie than a good time. 5.5/10

Oct. 3 - Zombieland (2009)* - Zombieland is a really fun flick, full of crazy hijinks and fun bloodletting that brings to mind other zombedies like Dead and Breakfast and Shaun of the Dead. That's pretty good company, and it fits somewhere in between the two, it's better than Dead and Breakfast, but not as good as Shaun of the Dead. From the opening credits - a montage of kills set to the stylings of Metallica's For Whom the Bell Tolls - you know that you are in for a fun ride. There are lots of wonderful kills to be found, some decent scares, and enough black humor to keep you laughing throughout. Unfortunately, the script feels a little laborious once the love interest side story fully kicks in to gear. The chemistry between the two actors is suspect, but that's beside the point because the whole idea feels trite and a little forced. Woody Harrelson is phenomenal as Tallahasee, channeling (a much more tender) Mickey Knox again for this film. The rest of the cast do fine jobs, but they are ultimately replacable. Jesse Eisenberg always reminds me of Michael Cera, which is weird because I actually saw Roger Dodger before I was introduced to Cera in Arrested Development. And be prepared for one helluva cameo stashed in the middle of the film. Overall, it's a funny, blood soaked ride that has its flaws but ultimately pays off. Go watch this one in the theater. 7.5/10

Oct. 2 - Cutting Class (1989)* - Standard fare quasi-slasher from the mid-eighties. I say quasi-slasher because there's so little slashing to be seen. There is some light red stuff that flows, and some off camera kills that really add up to more of a whodunnit thriller than anything else. The production values are considerably higher than I imagined they would be considering so many films of this nature from the time have such miniscule budgets. There are some descent twists throughout that keep you interested and just enough "eightiesness" to keep from dating it too badly but still give it a fun, retro vibe. I guess I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the film stars a young Brad Pitt in an early role, and he actually does a more than servicable job in the role. The film also features genre-staple Roddy McDowall as the perverted (and under used) principal. It's not a particularly good movie, but if these types of film are your bag (admittedly they are mine), it's not a terrible way to spend an evening. 5/10

Oct. 1 - Grace (2009)* - I am in a unique position as a first time viewer of Grace, because my wife is pregnant. Very pregnant. But somehow the film didn't actually seem to resonate with me nearly as much as the raw power that is inherent in its subject matter would suggest. Mainly the film felt tedious at times and was without the shock and awe that I had come to expect from the massive amounts of hype surrounding it. It's a shame how things that are tangental to the film like that actually affect your movie going experience, but it happens. That's not to say Grace is a bad movie. On the contrary, Grace is actually a very good movie, artistically made, exceptional acted, and not without its power and charm. The only thing really keeping it from that pantheon of greatness is the often meandering script that kept me from enjoying it too much, and maybe that's just the horror geek in me looking for some ultimate payoff that never seemed to arrive. I'm not above admitting that I am a selfish viewer. 6.5/10

* denotes a first time viewing

Countdown to Halloween

Hey, gang, check out Countdown to Halloween - a site dedicated to showing off blogs that are celebrating Halloween in style this year. Olympic Artichoke is proudly on this list, and want to support the Countdown! Just click the button below:

Clip of the Week

Horrifying Commercials

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

Clip of the Week

The Fat Boys - Are You Ready for Freddy?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Rust

Well, it's finally here, my favorite month of the year - October!

To kick of this month, sure to be filled with chills and thrills, we're going to do a retrospective of Octobers past here on the 'Choke. Olympic Artichoke's format isn't really "all horror - all the time", I just happen to have that predilection and most of my writing as of late has come out that way. But even in the past when we were more focused on pop culture and baseball around here (I still love both - and am very sad that my Rangers are out of it now) we always have had bloody, horror-filled Octobers. Hopefully this year is no different. Let's kick it.


Oct. 13 - Clip of the Week: Angry Video Game Nerd's TCM Review

Oct. 14 - Top Ten List of the Week: Top Ten Aliens

Oct. 21 - Clip of the Week: Jason on Arsenio

Oct. 21 - Top Ten List of the Week: Top Ten Slashers

Oct. 27 - Clip of the Week: Alice Cooper - He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)

Oct. 28 - Top Fifteen List of the Week: Top 15 Horror Games

Oct. 31 - Happy Halloween!


Oct. 1 - Happy October!

Oct. 1 - Top Ten List of the Week: Top Ten Horror Films of the 2000s

Oct. 2 - Clip of the Week: Zombie vs. Shark (from Zombi 2)

Oct. 6 - Clip of the Week: Within the Woods (short)

Oct. 10 - Top Five List of the Week: Top 5 Horror Remakes

Oct. 16 - Top Fifteen List of the Week: 15 Songs for a Macabre Mix CD

Oct. 21 - Top Ten List of the Week: Top Ten Horror Deaths

Oct. 22 - Clip of the Week: Two Trailers

Oct. 28 - Top Five List of the Week: Top 5 Halloween TV Specials

Oct. 29 - Clip of the Week: The A-Clip-Alypse!

Oct. 31 - Happy Halloween!

And, finally, a small announcement. It has been a few years since I was able to succesfully watch 31 horror films in the month of October, but I'm ready to run the Gauntlet again. I'm having a child in December, so this may be the last time I am able to do something like this for a long time. Anyway, I will give it my damndest and keep a running log, just for you, dear readers!
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