Thursday, December 2, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Clip of the Week

Olof Arnalds - Surrender

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Did You Know?

Did You Know?

That 20th Century Fox and Atari got together sometime in the early eighties to develop a game based on the 1981 horror picture The Entity? It's true, and the prototype still exists! Why would they base a game on such clearly disturbing subject matter? Beats me, but it's totally radical! Check out this link for more information:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween - 2010

October Horror Gauntlet Film #11

October Horror Gauntlet Film #11
Directed by Balagueró and Plaza

I don't know what more I can really say about [REC]. It's one of my top ten horror films of the decade. It's my favorite found-footage film. It's one of the best zombie (viral, or otherwise) movies of all time. It's pretty much fantastic - taut, thrilling, scary, enthralling. All the things you want a horror film to be.

If you are one of the uninitiated, [REC] is the story of a young reporter that's on assignment following around a team of firefighters. They are dispatched to a call in an apartment building, where an elderly lady may be hurt. Of course, from there things get really interesting. I really don't want to get bogged down here in plot description. The plot is effective enough, but it's really secondary to the palpable sense of dread that the film creates. Other than maybe Martyrs, [REC] is probably weaves the most effective web of atmosphere of any horror flick in the last ten years.

Suffice to say that I recommend the film. And highly. I haven't seen the American remake (Quarantine), but I can't imagine it coming very close to matching the quality of [REC]. Maybe I'm wrong though, and it's just as awesome. But I doubt it.


October Horror Gauntlet Film #10

October Horror Gauntlet Film #10
Directed by Spierig Brothers

Daybreakers kind of came-and-went pretty fast on its theatrical run. I remember seeing the previews for it, and thinking that it might be pretty good, only to completely forget about it once I got around to going to the theater. Daybreakers is the latest film from the Spierig brothers. You remember them, the guys behind the Australian zombie picture Undead from a few years ago. Anyway, it's a hyper-stylized, heavy-on-the-action affair that is probably really less horror than it is a distopyian sci-fi/action picture. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. In fact, I kind of enjoyed Daybreakers.

To catch you up a little bit, the story takes place about ten years in the future. An vampiric epidemic has broken out, and most of the world have become night-walking, blood-sucking vampires. The problem is the country is running out of its blood supply. Insert Ethan Hawke's Edward Dalton - a vampire with a heart of gold that is working on a way to create synthetic blood (ala True Blood). Of course, the plot moves forward from there, and Dalton winds up working with a rag-tag group of humans (including Willem Defoe) to try and put an end to the reign of vampire terror.

Daybreakers is really a pretty lackluster affair. All of the setup is there for a great cult film. The mythos and world the filmmakers created really are a great start. Unfortunately, they don't do a whole lot with it. If it had done better, I would say that maybe a sequel could build on these elements, but I don't see that happening. There just isn't enough meat to...sink your teeth in to. I know that's pretty vague, but watch it and see what I mean. And I do believe it is worth watching. It's a fun, violent movie that works on a few levels. But don't expect your next favorite movie. Oh, I do have to mention this: Sam Neil is great, as usual.


October Horror Gauntlet Film #9

October Horror Gauntlet Film #9
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Directed by Jim Sharman

Okay, so this one is a little bit of a cheat. It's not exactly a horror movie, but I think it can quality for the Gauntlet, as it is something of a satire of horror pictures. And, yes, I'm a bit late to the party on this one. I had never seen The Rocky Horror Picture show before. So, I guess the question is did I actually miss out on anything in all those years of having not seen the film? My feelings are actually kind of mixed on that.

From the beginning of the film, at least right after the wedding scene, I was hooked. I loved the "Science Fiction Double-Feature" song and thought that the setup was really going places. And, for the most part, the film continued to work for me for about the first forty minutes. I was into the songs, enjoyed the spectacle, thought Tim Curry was great, and was really interested in where the story was going. Only the story didn't ever really go anywhere. About halfway through the film, I felt like it was really dragging and I got disinterested. The songs started feeling more labored, and I didn't care what was going to happen next. By the end of the picture, my interest had picked back up, and I was enjoying myself again, but the volition was all but gone after the second act.

Do I recommend the film? Yes, I probably do. It is a huge cult film, after all. You might as well see it, at least just to see what all the fuss is about. But I can't say that I will revisit it any time in the near future. I am, however, inclined to get the soundtrack to re-listen to a handful of the songs in the film that really stuck out. Oh, and I should just note that I did watch this one with the wifey, she'd never seen it either, and she is head-over-heels for it now. Looks like this rental just turned into a purchase, just not for me.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October Horror Gauntlet Film #8

October Horror Gauntlet Film #8
Survival of the Dead
Directed by George A. Romero

Do I really have to write this review? Not that I'm the first to say it, but it feels more like a eulogy than a review, and I hate to have to do that. Romero is kind of a personal hero of mine. He was able to, for all intents and purposes, create an entire genre. And it's a genre that has spawned some of my favorite movies, to boot. He created (or at least brought to prominence) all of the modern mythos behind zombies, for crying out loud. The man is legend. But, like Stevie Wonder, U2, Francis Coppella, or Robert De Niro sometimes legends lose it in their twilight. It seems to me, after the debacle that was Diary of the Dead, and now this, that Romero's time in the sun may be over.

I can't begin to describe how disappointing this film is. My first gripe is how uncinematic the movie feels. I might as well have been watching a webisode on someone's blog as watching a feature film. The script is completely hamfisted, the acting is brutal, and the effects (mostly computer) are cheap and silly looking. Somebody please call Tom Savini!

I can forgive most of the problems - the acting, the grue, sure it's a low budget picture. Not everything is going to be A grade. But the script...the script is in need of some serious work. It's not just the dialogue, which is bad, but the plot is so stupid - it's the Hatfields and McCoys on an island during a zombie some army guys, and a kid! Really? This is the story you want to stick with, George?

The only redeeming qualities to the film are 1) that it is a Romero zombie film, so you automatically have to give it at least one cool point and 2) the few practical effects that are in the film look pretty good. Other than that, I don't know if I would waste my time with the movie.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October Horror Gauntlet Film #7

Film Number 7: Don't Look Up

October Horror Gauntlet Film #7
Don't Look Up
Directed by Fruit Chan

Fruit Chan is a director that I really wanted to catch up with after seeing his section of the anthology film Three...Extremes. His addition to that film, Dumplings, is my personal favorite of the three. And I hear tale that the full-length Gaau ji is superb, so it was a no brainer when I saw that he had an English-language film out. I was especially interested to see if he reeled in the usually zany Eli Roth.

Unfortunately, Roth is only in the film for about two minutes, and the rest of it is borderline garbage. I can't believe that this is the same guy who made the incredibly nuanced Dumplings. The whole production feels cheap - the scares, the script, the effects all feel very cheap. And you will definitely feel like you've seen this movie before - it's like The Man With the Screaming Brain meets John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns, if that gives you any insight.

If you really care, the story is about a young, former wunderkind director named Marcus Reed who suffers from schizophrenic visions (or, possibly, sees ghosts). To clear his good name, he embarks on a quest to remake a classic Romanian horror tale that was begun many years ago, but never completed. The plot is more convoluted than that, it includes the true story that the original film, and subsequently the remake, is based on and a deal with a devil, but who really cares? You won't be lost by the story, but you will wonder why the hell they went through so much effort just to make a crappy story.


Monday, October 11, 2010

October Horror Gauntlet Film #6

October Horror Gauntlet Film #6
Cold Prey (2006)
Directed by Roar Uthaug

Honestly I hadn't heard very much about Cold Prey before I decided to fire it up on the ol' Netflix Stream. I knew it was a Norwegian slasher, and that it took place in the mountains, but that was it. I had pretty high hopes for it, being a slasher from Norway and really thought that it might offer us something new in the genre. Unfortunately, my expectations were not to be fulfilled because what we are left with is pretty much the same movie you've seen fifty times before.

Cold Prey starts out with a group of five young adults on their way to a mountain on a snowboarding adventure. One of the guys ends up breaking his leg, and they take shelter in an abandoned ski lodge for the night. Uh-oh, turns out someone else lives there, too, and he doesn't like visitors. If you want to know the rest of the story; think of every cliche in the book and apply them to a ski lodge in Norway and you've got Cold Prey!

I'm not suggesting that it's necessarily a bad thing to stick to classic tropes, but I expected some variation from the same old stuff we see in American cinema all the time. Maybe up the ante, you know. Instead, we've got a very trite story, some decent scares, and some lackluster kills. I can say that I had fun watching Cold Prey with a buddy. We actually ended up providing our commentary through much of the picture, MS3TK-style. But, in all seriousness, the film is fairly effective at times and can be a pretty good time if you are looking to shut off and enjoy a dumb movie. For that reason alone, I will at least have to give it a five on the enjoyment scale.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Clip of the Week

October Horror Gauntlet Film #5

October Horror Gauntlet Film #5
Night of the Comet (1984)
Directed by Thom Eberhardt

It wasn't too long ago that there still a handful of genre favorites unreleased on the DVD medium. It wasn't but just a few years ago that we first got a favorite of mine, The Burning, on disc. A few months before they released The Burning, MGM put out the cult classic Night of the Comet for the first time on DVD. I had never seen the film, and have always meant to pick up the DVD and check out what I hoped was an eighties genre gem.

Does it live up to those high expectations? No, not really. Not in the same way that Night of the Creeps does, anyway. Don't get me wrong, Night of the Comet is a fun movie, that is very much a product of its time. The effects, the big hair, the all-around goofiness of the picture all really place the film in the eighties, but it's a fun trip back in time rather than a tedious one.

The picture stars Catherine Mary Stewart (The Last Starfighter) as Regina, a tough-as-nails 18 year old Los Angeleno vixen. She is actually a lot of fun to watch, and one of the best parts of the film. The story, such as it is, is about a comet that is going to be making a pass of earth (the same one that was last seen when the dinosaurs died!) and the havoc that ensues after said comet turns most of civilization into red dust. Yeah, just like the dinosaurs! Anyway, there are some zombified people in the movie, but it's really light on zombies.

Overall, I can recommend Night of the Comet as a fun movie to watch on a Friday night, preferably with a group of friends. Grab some popcorn and enjoy it as a trip back in time to watch some silly movie making.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October Horror Gauntlet Film #4

October Horror Gauntlet Film #4
Wait Until Dark
Directed by Terence Young

Wait Until Dark is a fantastic little 1967 suspense-thriller directed by Bond veteran Terence Young. The film stars Audrey Hepburn, who was nominated for the Oscar, Richard Crenna, and Alan Arkin playing against type as the scummy villain Harry Roat. From the get go it’s pretty easy to spot that the movie was based on a play – the dialogue and what is basically one small set betray this – but it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the film. The play was actually pretty popular, originally being directed by Arthur Penn and starring Lee Remmick and Robert Duvall.

By no means does Wait Until Dark defy plot synopsis, nor is it incredibly convoluted, but I am finding it difficult to sum up the action in a few short sentences. The movie starts with a woman smuggling heroin inside of a doll. From there, an innocent man gets roped into the drug muling by way of the woman asking him to hold the doll for her. He does so, and brings the doll back to the apartment (for reasons I don’t seem to recall) and that’s where the trouble begins. Arkin’s Harry Roat masterminds a plot to find the doll in this house, while confusing Susy into thinking that her husband may be involved in a murder.

It’s kind of a Hitchcockian thriller, and one that I would highly recommend. It’s very taut, and very exciting. I kept waiting for a dull moment, or for the action to drag but it never really did. And the final twenty minutes are edge-of-your-seat type stuff that will really have you glued to the TV. The main problem I had with the film was the lack of depth to the characters – but things like Hepburn’s portrayal helped me get around that and really believe her even without a wealth of characterization. Sometimes she did dip into melodrama, which was a little distracting, but for the most part I can understand her Oscar nomination.


October Horror Gauntlet Film #3

October Horror Gauntlet Film #3
Horror of Dracula (1958)
Directed by Terence Fisher

Dracula, in some iteration, has been played by a lot of different heavyweights. Max Schreck, Bela Lugosi, Klaus Kinski, Jack Palance, Frank Langella, and Gary Oldman have all donned the cape and portrayed the undead count – even if they were called “Nosferatu” instead of Dracula. But I don’t know how much better it can get than the ultra-debonair Christopher Lee.

Lee stars opposite of Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing in this, the first of Hammer Horror’s classic Dracula series. The Bram Stoker story has been streamlined down to a breezy 82 minutes, completely omitting the character of R.M. Renfield and Quincey Morris. They’ve also eschewed with some of the seedier aspects of the story, in favor of more implicit relationships, and some of the more time consuming plot points (like Dracula’s sea voyage). Personally I don’t feel like any of these changes detract from the power of the story. If anything, I feel like cutting the fat, as it were, helps make the story more cinematic in its pacing.

I won’t go into details on the story, as you’ve already heard it. Instead, I’ll discuss why this particular version of the story is probably my second or third favorite telling. The obvious reason for my fondness of the film is the cast – Lee and Cushing are an institution of character acting. They play opposite each other so well in so many Hammer films, that it’s difficult to think of a better acting duo.

Secondly, that classic Hammer atmosphere is a driving force that brings me back to this particular version time and time again. The sets look pretty fantastic, the Terence Fisher direction is superb in its subtlety, and the overall atmosphere of Victorian dread is palpable in all of the scenes. To me, it can get better than Horror of Dracula, but it would be a very difficult task.


Monday, October 4, 2010

October Horror Gauntlet Film #2

October Horror Gauntlet Film #2
Friday the 13th (1980)
Directed by Sean Cunningham

I’ve seen Friday the 13th at least twenty times over the years, but watching it over the weekend it took on a whole new life for me. I was finally able to get my hands on the uncut Blu Ray edition of the film, and I thought it looked pretty fantastic. It wasn’t quite like seeing a whole different movie, but it was close.

Now, this advance in technology works both against and in favor of a movie like Friday the 13th. Some of the shots of the lake look just gorgeous on Blu Ray, but things like the prosthetic neck used during Kevin Bacon’s death are exposed as being very fake looking. The other big revelation that the disc brings for me is finally being able to see the uncut deaths in all of their glory. Annie’s gets particularly more brutal (she’s the one that bites it at the beginning of the film).

The big question that I always have with movies of this ilk is do they hold up? I think that the answer to that is a little fuzzy. I enjoy the film as much now as I ever have, but what I appreciate is the simplicity of it rather than the sheer terror Cunningham is attempting to bring to the screen. Full disclosure here, I am an unabashed fan of summer camp movies. That includes fare from Sleepaway Camp, to Wet Hot American Summer, to Meatballs. I love the genre, and particularly when the films are from the eighties. Those movies captured a sense of innocence, both in the filmmaking and in the subject-matter presented, that is difficult to replicate.

Cunningham’s idea of taking that idyllic, yet hormone-fueled atmosphere of the summer camp movie and marrying it with a stalk-and-slash thriller is a pretty fantastic one. And, for the most part, I do love Cunningham’s film. I think that it does get that feeling down – that youthful exuberance amongst the serenity of a beautiful camp background – and he slowly begins to dilute that atmosphere with impending doom. That all still works for me.

The main problems with the film lie at the very heart of it, and they are the script and the plot. For the most part, the characters are completely underdeveloped and are on screen as nothing more than fodder for the killer. This is incredibly common to the slasher film, but it is also something that needs to be remedied. The main plot idea works, but there’s no real “oomph” to it. The big reveal doesn’t work particularly well, because the viewer just doesn’t have any reason to care. I’m starting to run a little long here, so I will cut myself off. Let’s just say that while Friday the 13th is a film that I will always love, it is pretty flawed.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

October Horror Gauntlet - 2010

Every year I attempt to watch at least 31 horror movies in the month of October. It's rare that I succeed, but it's a lot of fun to try. This year, I kicked things off last night with Adam Green's Frozen.

October Horror Gauntlet Film #1
Frozen (2010)
Directed by Adam Green

Adam Green is the man behind the throwback slasher Hatchet (and the great Jack Chop), but this is decidedly different fare for him. Frozen is more of a psychological thriller/suspense movie, and one that pretty much takes place entirely in one location - aboard a chair lift on top of a mountain. In case you don't know the story, it's about three skiers that try to catch one last gnarly run (or whatever) in the night, and are inadvertently stranded at the peak of a chair lift's ascent up a mountain.

For the most part, I enjoyed the film. SPOILER ALERT: It's fun watching the kid from Air Bud think that he can jump three stories and be fine, only to have his legs shattered and his face eaten by wolves. Yeah, that happens. You wanna see it now, don'tcha? Sometimes the film does get bogged down into the same tropes that you see in any of these "stranded" films, and it can also dip into really saccharine sentiment at times as well.

I can appreciate the difficulty of making a film like this have any kind of real prowess, because it is so stagnate, and I think that Green is able to sustain a pretty good buzz through-out most of the films run time. That's not to see that it is an excellent film by any means, just one that will hold your attention until about the one hour mark, and then again about twenty minutes later. Overall, I'd recommend it to you to watch on a cold, snowy night with some friends.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Clip of the Week

The Flaming Lips - See the Leaves

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Clip of the Week

Grinderman - Heathen Child

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Clip of the Week

Sébastien Tellier - L’amour et la Violence

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Clip of the Week

Magic Kids - Superball

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

Clip of the Week

Rainbow - Gates of Babylon

Sunday, May 16, 2010

R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio

Ronnie James Dio - R.I.P.

Lead singer of Rainbow, Dio, and Black Sabbath died.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

R.I.P. Peter Steele


Aparently Peter Steele is dead. For real this time. Heart failure at the age of 48. Now, he has faked his own death before - so there is some hope that this is false. But this news makes me very sad. I only got to see Type O Negative once, but it was fantastic. I'll be breaking out my Symphony for the Devil DVD tonight, and pouring a little bit out for him.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Movies that Made Me: Ten Films that Shaped My Life Part Two

Here are the next two films in my recent series of posts, The Movies That Made Me.

5. Annie Hall - College, as I'm sure is the case with a lot of people, was a really enlightening time for me. I was turned on to new, exciting books, great music, and, of course, a lot of classic and foreign films. Woody Allen was a guy that I really never gave a chance until 2003 - my second year of college. I'd seen Celebrity a few years earlier, and really didn't enjoy it. But, I had a pair of friends (one of whom can be found here) that were fairly big Allen apologists, always raving about the philosophy, wit, and hilarity of his films. One night, I finally gave in to them and watched Annie Hall. It turned out they were right. Here was an intellectually thrilling, romantically endearing comedy that is zany as hell. Having just started delving into the repetoire of the Coen Brothers, and listening to the likes of Bill Hicks this excited me to no end. I went to a used book store and picked up Without Feathers and Side Effects (hilarious, btw), and became a full-blown Allen fan.

4. Mulholland Dr. - Mulholland Dr. was released in 2001, but I didn't get the chance to see it until 2004. I remember my first watching pretty vividly. I was already a pretty big fan of David Lynch, Blue Velvet being my favorite of his films. I had already seen Lost Highway, so I was fairly prepared to have my mind fucked. But nothing I had seen before compared to the epic beauty/tragedy of Mulholland Dr. If you've seen the film, you understand - whether you like it or not - that the film subverts the viewer's expectations from film in very strange ways. The narrative is shattered, and watching the film is a bit like piecing together a puzzle that's been doused in kerosene. It's a true experience, as the viewer takes an active role in the film by working as detective. I'm not exagerating when I say that this film reaffirmed my faith in film as an artform. It's hard to describe why it works so well for me, but it instantly became one of my all time favorites, and encouraged me to make a few shorts of my own. Just a two years later, I would find myself visiting some friends in Los Angeles (the same ones that encouraged me to watch Woody Allen), and I was able travel along Mulholland Dr. It wasn't as good as the movie, but it was pretty awesome anyway.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cool Swag

Cool Swag: Dutch Southern

It's been a while since we've had a Cool Swag addition to the ol' blog, but I just ran across this place and it is totally deserving. I'm talking about Dutch Southern Shirts. Been looking for a sweet Death Wish shirt that has Charlie Bronson coming out of a magic lamp? Of course you have. Well, look no further. Or maybe you are more interested in one that basically tells the story of True Romance. Well, Dutch Southern has you covered. The screen prints look teriffic, and at $20 a shirt they are reasonably priced. I plan on picking some of these bad boys up for myself.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spotlight on Evil: My Pet Monster

Spotlight on Evil: My Pet Monster

Sure, "evil" may be a bit too strong a word to describe My Pet Monster, but just look at that little devil. Blue fur, sharp fangs, yellow eyes, and he's chained up like the Castle Freak - I think those are all signifiers of the evil lurking inside that little bastard's black heart.

In case you are not a product of the eighties, My Pet Monster was a plush doll first produced by American Greetings in 1986 that was targeted, like the equally evil My Buddy, to boys. Eventually there was a whole line of characters put out as his companions, but who gives a shit about them? Not me.

You might also remember the terrible live-action, direct to video film from 1986 about a boy who becomes the Pet Monster after being exposed to some statue. Whenever the boy gets hungry he changes into the Pet Monster (ala The Incredible Hulk). Some baddie tries to kidnap him to perform what I can only assume to be bizarre sexual acts on him - I'm not certain I'm remembering that exactly right - and the boy's sister helps him escape. You can actually find a dub of the film, straight from a VHS copy, on YouTube here.

After the DTV movie, ABC carried a short-lived animated series based on My Pet Monster. From 1986 to 1987 the show followed Monster who lived with a boy named Max. When Monster wore his handcuffs, they turned him into a stuffed animal. Max and Monster got into a series of silly adventures, all the while trying to hide Monster from the world-at-large. Honestly, I don't remember the show too well, I was caught up watching GI Joe as often as I could, but you can actually find all thirteen episodes on DVD now.

Back in 2001, Toymax released a commemorative edition 22" talking My Pet Monster plus doll, but it seems that they are about as hard to find/expensive as the originals from the eighties. Eventually I plan on re-buying one of these bad boys for my son. They go on eBay for around $40, give or take. It seems to be harder to find them still fully in tact with their handcuffs, but I would hold out for a complete one. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane - and this Spotlight on Evil.

Enjoy the intro from the My Pet Monster cartoon:

Now That's Art!

April Fool's Day (1986)

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Movies that Made Me: Ten Films that Shaped My Life Part One

Recently I've posed a challenge to a lot of other bloggers around the ol' blog-o-sphere. I've asked for people to list the top ten movies that have shaped their lives as movie fans, art lovers, artists, people, and whatever else. Tent-pole films of your life, if you will. I figured that it was only fair that I did it myself. So, here are the first five of my top ten movies that shaped me - in chronological order. And, remember, if you'd like to participate in this, by all means go ahead and do so. Feel free to grab the banner from here and use it on your own site.

Films 10-6

10. Jaws - I swear to you that I have this vague, fuzzy memory of being two years old and watching Steven Spielberg's Jaws on our living room television set while I lay on the floor entranced by the disturbing images on the screen. I can only remember one scene from it at that time, but it involved one of Brody's kids, and it affected me on a deep level. It was the first movie that I ever saw that picture children in harm's way. That really freaked me out - and it made me aware of how film could really evoke emotion from the viewer, particularly fear. For anyone that claims Jaws is not a horror movie, I say "pffft". I'm not sure how deeply this film scarred my psyche, but I am still scared of deep bodies of water to some degree. If that doesn't count as "shaping me" as a person then I don't know what does.

9. Star Wars - As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a Jedi. I mean that, when I was little my brother had all of the old Kenner Star Wars toys. He had Taun-Tauns, The Rancor Monster, the Hoth Playset, I mean everything. My first exposure to the Star Wars universe came from these toys, stuffed animals, and bed sheets. The business of Star Wars was so large and booming that the movies might as well have been commercials to sell the toys, but I'll be damned if they weren't fantastic commercials. I still remember watching our VHS copy (which I still have, complete with receipt - $50!) of A New Hope and being absolutely floored by the incredible daring and action that took place on the screen. It was and still is something to be hold, some of the better fantasy mythos that I've encountered. Through the years, I grew even fonder of Star Wars. I was the kid in middle school and high school that wore the Star Wars t-shirt with the Japanese script on it, and carried an original Boba Fett toy in my backpack.

8. Halloween - Another very early horror flick for me, Halloween shaped me at two different times in my life. Firstly, when I was a kid it scared the beejezus out of me. I can remember watching it one Halloween night with my older siblings and some of their friends. We were eating popcorn and watching it in my brother and my room. Even though it was the television edit, I was still terrified of THE SHAPE. Throughout the years, I kept watching scare shows and it ended up being Jason that really stuck with me and became my favorite slasher villain. That is, up until I was about twenty years old or so. At that point, I was really starting to appreciate film. I went back and took at look at Carpenter's early work, including Halloween. For the first time the whole package really struck me as amazing. The atmosphere, the POV shots, the ambiance of the soundtrack. I saw the film with new eyes, trying to dis-remember the sequels and forget about Laurie Strode being Michael's sister and really focusing on it as a stand-alone film. It's a remarkable piece of cinema, and I will always love it.

7. Back to the Future - I doubt that I ever actually understood the awesomeness of Back to the Future when I was a kid, even upon the many rewatches that eventually wore out my VHS tape. At least not the way I do now. What I did know was that I really enjoyed the film, Michael J. Fox, and the concept of travelling through time. I like to think on some level that I did understand that this actually pretty fine film-making, but that may be giving my 6 year old self too much credit. Back to the Future did help a lot in shaping my sense of humor, and my idea of cool. I thought that Marty McFly was the coolest guy in the world - he was suave, charming, had hunnies all over him, and was quietly funny. I do remember that first time travel scene really disturbing me, when Doc Brown is shot down by the terrorists - I was always really happy when Marty found Doc in the past alive and healthy.

6. The Usual Suspects - This is probably the biggest tent pole film for me, in terms of film appreciation. I watched The Usual Suspects when I was in high school. I don't remember the exact age, but probably around 14. I had no real pretense about the film, no expectations, but after I watched this movie I found myself in love with film for the first time, not merely as a spectator but as an active participant in the world of film. Now, I don't mean that I became a film-maker (though, I would go on to make a couple of shorts), what I mean is that I became aware of film-making elements that had never occurred to me before. I became, slowly of course, someone that felt the need to participate in film - to engross myself in it, learn about it, actively seek exciting films, I subscribed to auteur theory without even knowing what it was. I didn't know who Bryan Singer was, but I knew that I was all in on him. I felt that I was witnessing the birth of an exciting young talent, that I could grow with and follow. I still get that same feeling sometimes. It's great to find diamonds in the rough that you can watch the progression of. I love it baseball, music, film, you name it. It was really an exciting time in my film watching experience and one that really shaped me not just as a film lover, but as a person to better understand things like art and craftsmanship - completely enriching my life. Watching the film today, I'm not as enamored with it. Don't get me wrong, I still think it's one of the best pictures of the nineties, but I am more satisfied with what the movie did for me as a person than with the actual picture itself.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Landlord (2009): A Review

The Landlord (2009)


Recently I was enticed by some fairly excellent throw-back style cover art to watch writer/director Emil Hyde's (apparently) first and only movie, The Landlord. Knowing that it was very low budget picture, I assumed it wouldn't live up to the great cover, but picked it up anyway off of the official website just to support independent horror. The DVD will only cost you $12, including shipping. Click the link to check out the trailer

The Landlord is the story Gary, landlord and part owner of a small apartment building. He's a regular guy, who happens to have a very irregular problem - his apartment building actually houses two blood-thirsty demons. It's up to Gary to keep the demons fed and happy, by enticing tenants (preferably fat, lazy ones) to rent out his rooms. One day, a young woman, with troubles of her own, moves into one of the vacancies - only this time Gary takes a shine to her and has to do decide what to do about his situation.

I wish I could get on here and say that my preconceived notions were all wrong, and that The Landlord was actually a fantastic first effort from Emil Hyde. Unfortunately, I think the best thing I can say about the film's merits is that it's not bad. It's not particularly good, but it's not terrible either. Most of the jokes don't quite land, the grue is lacking, the effects are cheap (if sometimes effective), the writing is fairly flat, and the acting is generally amateurish.

There's one really strange side story in the film that involves Gary the landlord's sister. Apparently she's a dirty cop who has made a deal with demon possessed monster/vampire people. The monsters feed on criminals, and the cops collect their spoils is how it works, I guess. Anyway, it's never really explained why these creatures exist, if they are an accepted part of reality, or what. It's just kind of a strange little story tucked into the larger one.

There is a lot to knock about The Landlord, but there are good things as well. The best thing the films has going for it is that there is certainly a lot of heart behind The Landlord. I love Rom Barkhoarder's Rabisu character, and I think he really shines here. The setup is interesting, even if the writing fails to deliver on it. And, even though most of the jokes fall flat, some of them actually do work.

What I am really hoping is that this is a stepping stone for the crew involved here. If Hyde can harness the passion that is seen here, and develop some of the talent that is glimpsed here, then I think we could really be on to something. Cheapie horror doesn't have to be bad, and even though The Landlord isn't going to make you rethink your ranking of best horror flicks, it does at least exemplify that.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Films from the Crypt: Episode 13 - Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Films from the Crypt: Episode 13 - Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Director: Stephen King
Starring: Emilio Estevez
Tagline: "Who Made Who?"

Warning, here there be spoilers:

The poster tag "...masterpiece of terror directed by the master himself" may be a little bit of an overstatement. In reality, Maximum Overdrive is one of the campiest, most fun horror flicks of the eighties. And, it's pretty easy to see that it was intentional when the first scene has an ATM calling Stephen King an asshole.

The plot is pretty simple. The earth passes through the tail of a comet and, without warning, all of earth's machines take on a life of their own. Oh, and they are murderous. Can't forget that part. We never actually come into any realization as to why the machines are rebelling, I guess it's technically possible that there are invisible aliens that are driving the trucks around. The main story follows a group of people that are surrounded by circling semi-trucks inside a gas station. These include a pervy Bible salesman, newly wed couple, and a badass ex-con played by the Mighty Duckman himself, Emilio Estevez.

Just look at the poster to get a sense of the overall awesomeness of the film. Yeah, I think it's a picture of a well-bearded Steve King breaking through a trailer holding strings attached to semi-trucks like he was the puppet master of so many marionettes. Then you've got Gordon Bombay holding an M16 like he's gone commando while standing next to the female lead.

The characters are underdeveloped, the plot is so full of holes it's ridiculous, and the gore is fairly light, but dammit, this movie just works for me. It's such a ridiculous premise and the leads play it completely straight, ostensibly to give the terror some legitimacy. But the cheese that spews forth from Emilio playing a hard nosed ex-con taking on both shitty boss Pat Hingle (who is excellent by the way) and an onslaught of nefarious, sentient trucks is just amazing beyond words. If somebody pitched that movie to me, I would green light it faster than you can say Another Stakeout.

At this point, let me go back and address the gore, and say that I have only seen the cut version - word is there is another print of the film that has all the kills in tact. I'm holding out hope that the infamous "little kid run over by a steamroller" kill gets even more awesome in the uncut version.

I also want to discuss a little bit about, at least what I see as, the major plotholes. For instance, why are some machines controlled by the alien force, and some are not. Why does the force not just take over the newly weds car instead of trying to use a dump truck to squash them? It seems like it would be easier. We also know that the force is capable of taking over simpler machines, like guns (as is seen when the rolling machine gun acts as a sentry at the gas station), but in the final act all of our protagonists use guns in an attack against the truck menace. It boggles my mind! I'm assuming that someone of King's caliber recognized this and either didn't feel the need to address it, addressed it and it was cut, or just didn't give a damn.

But, the fact of the matter is that none of these flaws make me like the film any less. In fact, I think they are kind of endearing. In reality, I should think that this movie is pretty shitty, and maybe it is, but I happen to think it's awesome.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spotlight on Evil: Leslie Vernon!

Part Man Bites Dog, part American Psycho, and part Friday the 13th - Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon unleashed its eponymous protagonist upon the world. Leslie is the type of guys that likes to laugh at the little things, he likes to curl up with a nice book on rainy evenings, and he especially likes to hack up young girls into teeny tiny pieces.

While living in the small town of Glen Echo, Leslie took up with and became the apprentice of a retired serial killer named Eugene. Here Leslie lived for a time while he refined his skills as a sickle wielding psycho. This stuff takes a lot of practice and hard work.

Finally, in 2006, Leslie Vernon was ready to take the mantle of ultimate serial killer from the likes of Michael Myers and Jason Vorheese. After devising a very elaborate plot to trap and kill a group of unsuspecting teenagers (complete with a red herring and a final girl), Leslie enlisted the help of college journalist Taylor Gentry and her crew to document his rise to serial killer prominence. Of course, that didn't work out that well. After chasing young Taylor into an orchard, Leslie is actually killed by his own final girl.

But! Yes, there's always a but. As it turns out, Taylor's meddling may have actually done the world a grave disservice, as Leslie's body is seen rising up from the coroner's table. Could it be that Leslie has joined the ranks of Jason and Michael as an unstoppable, undead murderous psycho? God, I hope so.

I would like to formally lodge a complaint, however. There is no cool Behind the Mask swag. At least, none that I could find. Give us a t-shirt, and action figure, something, because Leslie Vernon is the great big bloody shit. That sounds grosser than I meant, but you get the picture.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Clip of the Week

Admiral Radley - Thread live and acoustic on NPR

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Timeline Post - Slow Descent

I had to get on here and just do a mini-review of one of my new favorite albums: The Timeline Post: Slow Descent. Full disclosure: one of the members is a contributor to this site. That said, this album is still really great.

While not quite a concept album, there are certain thematic undercurrents that weave throughout the album's running time. It just so happens that those undercurrents are neatly tied up into the record's title: Slow Descent. The title is apt both musically and lyrically, as each element work together to lull the listener into an ever deepening chasm of despair and misfortune. That may sound hyperbolic, but it's difficult to listen to this record without feeling at least on some small level a sense of being lost in the dark. It's a record of beautiful questions that don't have any answers. And one that I don't think will leave my CD player for quite some time.

Go here now and purchase it for a mere $7, with free shipping.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Clip of the Week

Mother directed by Joon-ho Bong

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Films From the Crypt: Episode 12 - Home Movie (2008)

Films from the Crypt Episode 12: Home Movie (2008)
Director: Christopher Denham
Starring: Adrian Pasdar

Warning, here there be spoilers:

Generally on the Films from the Crypt section we take a look back at some older films that you may have missed, but today I make an exception. Today we are going to look at a film that was released a couple of years ago called Home Movie. Released at the beginning of the Second Found Footage Wave (my own moniker), Home Movie is just that - a found footage film. But unlike something like Cloverfield, Home Movie is a very, very small film that centers around a family in upstate New York. The family, the father (a priest - played by Adrian Pasdar or, as I know him, Caleb from Near Dark) the mother (a psychiatrist), and two kids, have moved to the rural countryside in order to ease the children's declining mental states.
Home Movie Poster Art
I don't know how much of a spoiler it is to say that this is a killer kid film, as you can probably gather that by looking at the back of the box. And, let's be honest, who doesn't love killer kid films? From the Bad Seed to Who Can Kill a Child? to The Good Son, killer kid flicks are just great. Mine is still just shy of three months old, so I don't have to worry too much about him, but I wonder if I'll still feel this way when he gets a little older...old enough to weild, say, a hammer?

Anyway, so the two little freakish kids wind up being just a little bit more malevolent than the parents ever thought. That's all well and good, but my absolute favorite part of the film is the filmmaker's propensity to wrap everything up very nicely. At the end of the film (LAST WARNING - SPOILERS AHEAD) when the kids finally best ol' mom and pop, they put to use every bit of advice that the dad had given them in attempts to "normalize" them. Here is a list of things that I picked up on that were originally taught to the kids by the parents, and then turned around on them to be used for their demise:
little bastards
Trash bags for dead things.
The dragon/paper mask story.
The picking of the locks.
The tying of the knots.
The ability of the pills to induce comas.
The use of a baseball bat.

Overall, it's an interesting film. That's not to say it's fantastic or anything. The acting is pretty flat, at times it's not lean enough to keep you from wanting to hit fast-forward, and sometimes the camera work can get on your nerves. It's definitely not the best found-footage movie (I'd give that title to Spain's [rec]), but it is an entertaining, and deeply interesting piece that works, for the most part, on all the levels that it attempts to. It's definitely recommended viewing and a nice find in the onslaught of crappy horror that's produced today.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Clip of the Week

A Nightmare on Elm St. (2010) HD Trailer

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Diagnosis: Death - A Review

Years ago, when Peter Jackson was just breaking in to the film business, it seemed like New Zealand might be poised to be a hotbed, albeit a small one, of horror film activity. Bad Taste and Braindead seemed like the beginning of something major. They were, only they were the beginning of Jackson's long and award-addled career. It didn't really mean too much for New Zealand horror. Just a couple of years ago another Kiwi horror comedy came out and created a bit of a buzz itself, Black Sheep. A horror film about killer sheep? Sign me up! And, it is a fun little movie - one that I recommend you view with some friends and a good sense of humor.

Last year, Affordable Films released New Zealand's latest horror-comedy Diagnosis: Death. They tried to capitalize on the popularity of their country's own Flight of the Conchords and included Brett McKenzie, Jemain Clement, and Rhys Darby. Full disclosure: I love Flight of the Conchords - the show, and the band. The only problem is that these guys are probably in the film for a total of five minutes between them. Yeah, it's a cocktease.

The film itself, a horror-comedy, is surprisingly light on both horror and comedy. It stars Raybon Kan (apparently he's a New Zealand stand-up) as a school teacher that is stricken with a rare form of cancer. He goes to a weekend drug trial to test out new, experimental drugs that may be able to cure him. Sounds reasonable enough, but wait, there's more. It turns out this hospital used to be...wait for it...a MENTAL INSTITUTION! dun-dun-dun. And, as if that wasn't enough, some famous author supposedly killed herself and her child in this very same ward!

The movie is basically a ghost-story-mystery thing disguised as a comedy. The laughs are few and far between, the revelation at the end is predictable, and the horror is cheap and stupid. That said, the two minutes of screen time that are alloted to Rhys Darby had me rolling - he's basically playing Murray as a doctor. I was able to watch it with a friend and we managed to enjoy ourselves by adding our own, MS3TK-style commentary to the film and rewinding the Rhys Darby's final scene (he gives a great look at the end of it) multiple times. Fortunately, they keep things fairly light and every once and a while the jokes will land so you should be able to get through the film.

Because we were able to enjoy ourselves while watching, I'll give it a 5 out of 10, but it really doesn't deserve anything higher than that. I advise you not to buy this one. It may be worth a rental if you are a big Conchords fan or would like to watch something light and silly with some buddies on a weekend. I advise against watching it by yourself, too, as you'll have no one to crack wise with.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

The House of the Devil: A Review

The House of the Devil Reviewed

I was finally able to sit down last night and watch Ti West's The House of the Devil. I had been anticipating it for quite some time, I loved the poster art, the gimmick of releasing the film on VHS, and everything about the film seemed alluring. Needless to say, I was very excited to finally be able to watch it. Unfortunately, it was something of a let-down for me.

I was actually able to get with the gimmick of creating a film that looked/felt like an eighties picture, at first I thought that was silly, but rationalized it as a period piece that's HEAVY on the period. And, you know what, the set up is pretty nice. The first reel makes it seem like you are in for a really good time. It seemed like it could have been the first reel of some lost Halloween sequel from the eighties. Genre staple Dee Wallace even pops up in the first five minutes of the picture.

Unfortunately, writer/director Ti West is unable to deliver on his set up and we're left with a lot of filler, and, ultimately, an uninspired, easy, and trite ending. The entire second act is superfluous, and could have been better utilized. I kind of dug the montage scene. It amped up the pace a little bit, but ultimately it was too little too late. The film had already begun its slow plod into mediocrity by that point. I won't spoil the ending here, but I will say that it is not rewarding as a film watcher. You've seen it before, you will see it again.

It's too bad, too. I love a good "slow burn" horror film. I love films like The Sentinel or The Entity. You could really tell they were going for Polanski (think Rosemary's Baby or The Tenant) with this one, but few people are as capable as Polanski and Ti West isn't one of them. This movie had so much promise, but ultimately feels flat and all the gimmicks in the world can't save a flat script.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spotlight On Evil: Cropsy!

The Killer from The Burning (1981)

1981's The Burning is one of my favorite slashers of all time. It has the panache of the first couple of Friday the 13th films, but it's much more of a mystery being a one-off. Had Cropsy come back for more adventures, the luster may have worn off a bit, but as it is The Burning stands alone as a really good slasher with a great villain.

Interesting Trivia: Tom Savini turned down the chance to work on Friday the 13th Part II to work on The Burning!

Cropsy's Story: Camp Blackfoot's alcoholic groundskeeper/janitor Cropsy is sleeping in his cabin one night when some young campers take it upon themselves to teach him a lesson. The prank goes horribly wrong, and Cropsy is severely burned - having to spend the next five years recovering in the hospital. He is released from the hospital, only to return to the site of his accident in order to stalk the campers of Camp Stone Water, located across the lake.

That's right. A burnt up villain that uses sharp objects to kill his victims. I'm not implying that a certain Wes Craven stole anything from this film, Cropsy certainly doesn't stalk people in their dreams, but it is interesting. In all honesty, the movie shares much more in common with Friday the 13th (specifically part 2) than it does with A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Interesting Trivia: The Burning was one of Miramax Film's earliest successes.

Okay, so the story is a little uninspired, but this ain't Shakespeare. Besides, who needs a good backstory when you've got a sharp pair of gardening shears just itching to get bloody? Oh that's right, I've failed to mention the fact that Cropsy is responsible for one of the greatest massacres ever to be filmed - the infamous RAFT MASSACRE. Please see this YouTube video HERE for reference.

I would like to recommend that everyone head over to Fright-Rags and check out their The Burning shirt which features the subject of today's Spotlight on Evil. It's pretty great and sells for $19.95.

There's not a whole lot more left for me to say about our dear Cropsy, the guy only lasted for one film in the slasher era for Pete's sake, but he will always be near and dear to me. I hope you guys enjoyed reading a little bit about my burnt up, kill-happy friend Cropsy.
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