Just finished watching Evil Things for the second time, and this time I made my wife watch it with me. She's so frightened right now that I literally had to go turn on the lights and check the bathroom before she was willing to go in.
Written & Directed by Jordan McMillen and Jason Martin
This movie--and I use the term loosely--opens up with some two-bit slimeball making vulgar comments to a sloppy brunette in a dive bar while a mediocre rock band plays in the background , ending with a spilled drink, which is really just an excuse for the girl to strip down to her unmentionables in a public restroom, where she is promptly killed.
And that's just the first 90 seconds. Literally!
The filmmakers obviously have no trouble laying all the cards out on the table right from the get-go. Unfortunately, once we've seen their hand, they really have very little left to show us.
The band playing in the background is the local Pittsburgh garage rock outfit The Jason Martinko Revue, and it seems that this isn't the first time an "underage" groupie has been killed at one of their concerts, and it certainly won't be the last. Is a member of the band behind the killings? Their ridiculous manager who looks like an extra from the Beastie Boys "Sabotage" video? A crazed fan? Who knows? And more importantly, who cares?
Here's the basic structure of the movie: girl takes off clothes, girl gets killed, The Jason Martinko Revue plays a song; girl takes off clothes, girl gets killed, The Jason Martinko Revue plays a song; It continues in this exact same vein for the full running time of 60 minutes, which feels like 60 hours, although I think there was a police detective in there somewhere whose investigation pretty much consisted of doing drugs and narrating for the audience, but never--not even once--finding a clue. And at one point, seemingly at random, the whole debacle deteriorated into genuine girl-on-girl pornography with lapping tongues and shimmering strap-ons.
Gone the Way of Flesh tries to pass itself off as a low-budget, backyard horror/exploitation movie inspired by the works of H.G. Lewis. If that were true, I could at least respect it if not enjoy it. But the truth is that this was nothing but a vanity project for a band that has no real reason to be so vain. It was an extended music video that just so happened to have a couple murders in it. That concept may work for Rob Zombie, but it doesn't work here.
If you're a die-hard Jason Martinko fan (I suppose at least one of them may exist), you will probably be in hog heaven. I mean, it's The Jason Martinko Revue as...The Jason Martinko Revue! The role they were born to play! For everybody else, I caution you to stay as far away from this as possible.
The best musical moment was actually a great performance of "Amazing Grace" by some unknown African American man on the street. He blew the Revue to kingdom come. Maybe he can take the lead in the upcoming sequel.
Yes, they're making a sequel.
If I had to say something positive, I suppose it would be this: The Jason Martinko Revue are much better musicians than they are movie makers. Of course, so am I, and the only instrument I've ever played is a comb covered in wax paper.
"You'll be seeing me right in your goddamn tonsils later on tonight!"
Written by Michael Grais & Mark Victor
Directed by Brian Gibson
JoBeth Williams .... Diane Freeling
Craig T. Nelson .... Steve Freeling
Heather O'Rourke .... Carol Anne Freeling
Oliver Robins .... Robbie Freeling
Zelda Rubinstein .... Tangina Barrons
Will Sampson .... Taylor
Julian Beck .... Kane
A pair of Indian shamans beside a Technicolor campfire conjure up the spirits of the dead. We see the spirits circle and then enter the body of Taylor, the younger of the two, who raises his arms in praise to the heavens before jumping in his decidedly battered blue pickup truck and heading to the suburban town of Cuesta Verde. Here he meets up with Tangina, the miniature psychic, who has been unearthing the evil beneath the old Freeling house and thinks she has found the heart of the matter: wretched corpse-filled catacombs.
The Freelings have moved out, of course, and are now staying with Diane's mother Jessica, who possesses a small psychic ability that was in turn passed on to Carol Anne. After drawing pictures of a tall gruesome man dressed all in black, Carol Anne has ghostly visions of the same man passing through the bodies of other people while out shopping with her mother. When Grandma passes away in her sleep, that same old haunted thunderstorm rolls in from which no good can come. Toys come to life, poltergeists wreak havoc, and Taylor shows up on their doorstep at a crucial moment to bail out the Freelings in their time of need.
The man in black reappears during a rainstorm, introducing himself as Reverend Henry Kane. He attempts to convince the Freelings that Taylor is in fact a dangerous con-man but succeeds only in scaring the hell out of Carol Anne and bumping the Creepy Quotient up by at least 50 percent. Taylor informs them that Cain is the leader of the evil spirits and that his plan is to destroy the family and possess Carol Anne.
When the shit hits the fan, the Freelings take Taylor's advice and return to their old home for an underground "final" showdown with the supernatural bastards.
As far as sequels go, I think this is a pretty damn good one with excellent performances by the entire cast, the excellent character additions of Taylor and Kane (who was strong enough to carry his own film, if the studio had felt so inclined), and a few laughs. We even get to see a bit more of the Other Side (in a moderately cheesy “floating family” scene) as well as the back story on the poltergeists and even a little moral regarding the importance of family somewhere along the way.
All around a good movie, even if the scene involving the son's braces seemed like it would be more at home in a Nightmare on Elm Street flick. If you've seen the first, see the second. But be wary of the third.
View the trailer below!
Alice, a struggling screenwriter makes a temporary move into a secluded Victorian house. Her reasons are two-fold: one, she has a lot of work to do on her latest script in order to meet her deadline (get it?) and she doesn't want to be distracted; and two, her psychotic, abusive ex has just been released from prison and she understandably doesn't want him to find her. Alice's best friend Becky is fully supportive, and remains her only contact with the outside world via the occasional telephone call.
But not long after moving in, Alice realizes just how creepy this house is. Bathtubs fill up by themselves to the point of overflowing; there are disembodied voices echoing through the hallways; there are even mysterious messages that appear on her laptop computer screen. Are you scared yet?
Doing a little routine investigation, Alice turns up a box full of home movies that belonged to the previous owner, and like a lazy yet technologically sound Jeff Jefferies, she becomes practically obsessed with them. Throughout their running time, she watches as the relationship between David Woods and his wife Lucy degenerates, thanks to his possessiveness, jealousy, overall creepiness...and probably his inability to put down the camera no matter what. As it turns out, Lucy and Alice's past have a thing or two in common.
With Ben on the loose and the violent past shown on these video tapes, we're unsure as to whether the strange events in the house are the work of a crazed ex-lover or a crazed ex-liver. Whether this was the intention of writer-director McConville or the result of the fact that we really stopped paying attention after the first 30 minutes is up to debate.
It's a decently shot and decently directed film, with decent performances and a decent score, but that's about all the compliments I can give. And that's not even much of a compliment! Very little of interest seemed to be going on as this movie chugged along at a salted slug's pace, and I was hard pressed to make it through to the end. By no means is it the worst movie I've ever seen, and it certainly isn't the best. And that's really what kills it: it's mediocre, run-of-the-mill, pretty standard stuff. Not good enough, or bad enough to be enjoyed, and the sloppy, ambiguous ending would have slaughtered it if it hadn't already slaughtered itself. With all the moody atmosphere, the apparent aim of this film towards an audience with estrogen, and the fact that there wasn't a decent male character to be found anywhere, I honestly thought that I had been duped into watching a Made-For-Lifetime movie.
But I still feel duped. The poster image shows Brittany Murphy in a bathtub, for Pete's sake! And as it turns out, I've seen more nudity on Superbowl halftime shows.
Let's hope that McConville can do better with his upcoming horror film The Car.
View the trailer below!
A funny thing happened last week. A small manilla envelope arrived in the mail, sandwiched between the latest issue of Wizard and the credit card bill. My wife, immediately noticing that the return address belonged to the U.S. Department of Justice, was understandably concerned, asking herself "What the hell has he gotten himself into now?"
Opening the mysterious envelope, I found a very official looking form letter from the above government entity, asking for my assistance in locating five missing persons. Enclosed was a DVD--evidence, really--containing footage of said individuals from their last known whereabouts. Being a good patriot, and an even better couch potato, I plopped ass in front of the television first thing this morning and began my stationary investigation.
If anyone was going to find these poor bastards while eating a bowl of Cocoa Krispies, it was gonna be me!
Five college-agers are en route to a remote country house to celebrate a birthday with the usual fare--cake, booze, and drunken, tittering jack-assery. While driving, they fall victim to a bit of passive-aggressive road rage from a mysterious someone or someones in an equally-mysterious van. Right off the bat--with the fact that the driver of the other vehicle is never seen, and no matter where our characters go, the van seems to find them--things are relatively tense. The first twenty minutes could be compared to a POV Joy Ride, only with real people instead of pretty plastic ones.
They eventually make it safely to the house, and in what is perhaps a nod to the "found footage" films that came before, takes a brief left turn into Blair Witch territory when the five get themselves good and lost in the woods. There was plenty of virgin snow on the ground, so why they didn't just follow their footsteps back to the house I can't tell you, but that's a minor query at best. In fact, you'll soon forget about it completely, because by the time they find their way out of the trees, it's only a short jaunt before the real horror begins. Remember The Strangers? It's a lot like that, only you feel more like an unwilling participant...not just a guilty watcher.
The entirety of the movie is shot from first person perspective, meaning that we only know what the characters know. We're exposed to the situation just as they are, through the camera lens in manic bursts that aren't always clear. When done improperly, that's the biggest weakness of these sort of films. When done right, that's the greatest strength.
And this one does it right.
Granted, like others who have seen this movie, I was a bit thrown off by the creepy musical score that cropped up on occasion. As this was supposed to be "found footage", added effects like that only defeat the illusion. However, I forgave this quite quickly as it really served to ratchet up the tension. And besides, upon viewing the ending, I think I could explain that away logically without compromising the story. I can't go into that here, though, without giving away too much. In fact, quite a few of my thoughts and comments have already had to be cropped from this review, as it's best if you go into this movie fresh. Maybe sometime later, after more people have seen this fine little film, I'll revisit it for more in depth commentary. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and see it for yourself.
Was it scary? Well, let's put it this way: I watched it in the safety of my own home, in broad daylight, and it creeped the hell out of me. There aren't all that many movies that could lay claim to that.
Jenny and Robert, lifelong best friends and college students in search of meaning in their lives, go off on a whim to the wilderness of Navarro Ridge to visit their old drop-out friend Michael Sutherland, whose solitary commune with nature has supposedly brought him the serenity that he could never find in civilization. Once there, Jenny and Robert are immediately accosted by the prerequisite local nutjob who tries to warn them off. All sorts of "strange things" happen in these parts, after all.
They of course don't listen and continue to Michael's log "cabin", but when they get there, he's nowhere to be found. Who they find instead are a pair of burned-out psycho hippie holdovers with the unlikely names of Danker and Levon ("It's French!") who taunt, torment, attack and assault them in the course of one long day. Michael finally shows up to find his two friends victimized, just in time to make them feel better and witness a pretty pathetic knife fight. And, well...that's about it.
From the generic sounding title, I was expecting your run-of-the-mill slasher flick, something that I could enjoy (albeit guiltily) under the right circumstances. What I found instead was a weak and watered down attempt at exploitation with an uplifting message thrown in for good measure. An attempt that failed on both fronts, I should add.
The acting, while passable, was nothing spectacular and the score was a grating barrage of light pop by the same woman throughout. In a film of a darker mood, perhaps the the punishment that the antagonists received would have worked well enough, but in a film of this stature, a little mud wrestling doesn't seem to be a fitting finale.
Call me crazy, but this steaming pile of celluloid is best left on the shelf. Even the skinny dipping and the presence of Robert "Freddy" Englund isn't enough to recommend this waste.
"A Very Different Kind of Love Story..."
Not sure if any of you have ever heard of the website, Seventh Sanctum. I know I hadn't, but I accidentally stumbled across it while doing a Google search for the "Jersey Shore" name generator (don't ask). While Seventh Sanctum didn't offer the name generator I was looking for, they did have a whole host of others. I wasted a good hour or so playing around with some of the ones that sounded the most interesting, and thought I would share them with you.
We can waste time together! Isn't that special?
B-Movie Title Generator Can you honestly tell me that you wouldn't drop a few hard-earned dollars to see these films?
Destiny of The Cannibal Indestructible People
The Cannibal Kiss of Davy Crockett
Beach of Hitler
Gore and Sensuality
The Luscious Mystery of Charles Uninhibited
The Decadent Kiss of Jack the Ripper
Paul Bunyan meets The Sensual Dolphin
Brides of Filth
The Whorehouse of Rage
Lizzie Borden and Billy The Kid go to The Hollow Earth
Martial Arts Move Generator Next time some young Hot Topic poser looks at me funny, I'm dropping some science on their pink-skull wearing asses with one of these Wu-Tang approved fatalities.
Distant Madman Chop of Waters
Five Guardians Thunder of Ghostly Blocks
Fourteen Irrational Thieves Knee of Silent Poles
Great Automaton's Toe of the Glacier
Phantasmal Cyclone of the Cunning Cat
Radiant Slam of the Crazy Mouse
Unwise Destroyer's Stomp of the Leg
Forbidden Elbow of the Monk
Tornado of Perfected Letcherous Priests
Disease Generator I refuse to go to the doctor unless absolutely necessary. These are the ailments that I would make an exception for.
Cartoon Generator Cartoons just aren't the same anymore. I grew up on Scooby Doo, the Smurfs, and Inspector Gadget. Forget those big-eyed Anime sissies. These are the shows that I want to see come Saturday Morning.
Adam Midnight And The Zapmice
Brock Thunder And The Monkey Fighters
Mister Flash And The Commandos Of Time
Miss Cosmic And The Astrophantoms
Now, if you'll excuse me I have to design a new costume for Dirtgiggle. The last one kept falling apart in the rain.
"While researching urban myths, grad student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) learns about the Candyman (Tony Todd), a hook-handed creature who's said to haunt a Chicago housing project. In this creepy film based on a Clive Barker story, the Candyman is made flesh by other people's belief in him. Not surprisingly, Lyle manages to summon him. Soon, the Candyman has committed a series of murders, and the cops are holding Lyle responsible."
A Clockwork Orange
"In this Stanley Kubrick classic based on Anthony Burgess's novel, teenage miscreant Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) wanders aimlessly amid a bleak, futuristic urban landscape, drinking drugged milk and listening to Beethoven with his fellow "droogs." But he also spends his time stealing, raping and beating innocent people in nihilistic orgies of violence, all in an attempt to get his nightly kicks."
"Director Takashi Miike fashions an explosive drama in Audition. Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) has lived as a widower for too long and decides it's time to marry again. But how will he find a wife? When a friend suggests he hold a fake audition to pick the right woman, he takes him up on it -- only to realize that his choice may be a better actress than he bargained for." (Read my review here)
"In this bizarre fantasy from the Czech Republic, an ordinary couple, Karel and Bozena, are unable to conceive a child. When Karel digs up a tree root and whittles something vaguely resembling a human baby, Bozena's strong maternal longings transform the stump into a living creature ... with a monstrous appetite that can't be met by baby's formula!" (Read my review here)
"After spending the last two decades in an insane asylum for decapitating her husband and his lover, Lucy (Academy Award winner Joan Crawford) moves into her daughter's (Diane Baker) farmhouse and attempts to put her life back together. But is she truly reformed? When more than just the chickens start to lose their heads around the farm, suspicions arise that Lucy may be falling back into her old ax-wielding ways." (Read my review here)
Starting bright and early tomorrow morning (Wednesday December 16th), TCM is continuing with their third in a series of Humphrey Bogart marathons. This time around, it seems we even have a real-life horror film (The Return of Dr. X) as well as a couple titles he's most well-known for: Casa Blanca and The Maltese Falcon.
6:00 AM:Becoming Attractions: Humphrey Bogart (1996)
"Host Robert Osborne takes a look at Humphrey Bogart's rise to stardom through the marketing of his movie trailers."
7:00 AM:The Return of Dr. X (1939)
"A murderer returns from the grave with a thirst for blood."
8:15 AM:You Can't Get Away With Murder (1939)
"A young tough takes the rap for a hardened gangster."
9:45 AM:Brother Orchid (1940)
"After a failed hit, a mob chief recuperates in a monastery."
11:15 AM:It All Came True (1940)
"A gangster hides out in a boardinghouse full of eccentrics."
1:00 PM:The Wagons Roll at Night (1941)
"A circus manager turns a young farm boy into a star lion tamer."
2:30 PM:Across the Pacific (1942)
"An American agent tries to keep Axis spies from blowing up the Panama Canal."
4:15 PM:All Through the Night (1942)
"A criminal gang turns patriotic to track down a Nazi spy ring."
6:15 PM:The Big Shot (1942)
"A mob leader escapes prison and flees with his love to a mountain hideaway, where he tries to atone for his sins."
8:00 PM:The Maltese Falcon (1941)
"Hard-boiled detective Sam Spade gets caught up in the murderous search for a priceless statue."
10:00 PM:Casa Blanca (1942)
"An American saloon owner in North Africa is drawn into World War II when his lost love turns up."
12:00 AM:Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
"Three prospectors fight off bandits and each other after striking-it-rich in the Mexican mountains."
2:15 AM:The African Queen (1951)
"A grizzled skipper and a spirited missionary take on the Germans in Africa during World War I."
Ann Lake and her four-year-old daughter Bunny (Bunny Lake? With a name like that, she's destined to grow into a stripper or a staple-naveled centerfold) have recently moved to England, American transplants come to live with Ann's journalist brother Steven. It's Bunny's first day at school, and Ann is running late for an appointment, so she hurriedly leaves her daughter in the care of the school cook and shoves off.
Later that day, when Ann arrives at the school to pick up her daughter, she's nowhere to be found. Not only that, but there's not a soul there who will even admit to ever having seen her. The police are called in, lead by the dryly witty Mr. Newhouse, and in the course of their investigation uncover that not only has Bunny Lake gone missing, but so have all of her belongings. Aside from the word of Steven and Anne, there's not a shred of evidence to suggest that Bunny even exists.
In fact, we eventually come to realize, we're in the same boat as the elementary school's employees: We've never seen the girl, either.
So what's going on here? Was Bunny kidnapped, and if so, by who? Is Bunny merely a figment of Ann's imagination, and if so, why is Steven playing along? Why does the drunken deviant landlord insist on carrying around a chihuahua as if he were a famous-for-being-famous L.A. starlet with a sex tape freely available on the internet? And perhaps most importantly, what kind of brother-sister relationship allows for Ann to sit around talking to Steven while he soaks naked in the bathtub!?
For the answers (at least to the first couple questions), you'll have to watch this suspenseful little ditty through to the end.
From the creative opening credits to the bizarre and unbalanced finale, this film was expertly directed and features top notch performances from all the leads, especially Laurence Olivier, who was really at the heart of the whole movie. There were certain moments throughout that were reminiscent of Hitchcock, and if shown out of context could easily be confused with scenes from one of his films.
The heavy use of music from the Zombies was a bit of an odd choice, I thought--it would fit quite nicely in a 'mod' movie, but it just seemed wildly out of place here. I have heard complaints about a few superfluous characters within the story, but their appearances have merit as Red Herrings, if nothing else. Conversely, the complaints that the movie was a bit slow at times do have some merit (a number of scenes could have been cropped), but it was a deliberate pacing that chugged along to a satisfying (if somewhat mind-warping) conclusion--even if there does happen to be a cliche or two along the way.
Overall, a fine little psychological thriller that has never received the audience that it deserves. Similar plot elements were used many years later in 2004's The Forgotten and 2005's Flightplan. A remake, once rumored to star Reese Witherspoon, has been discussed for years. Don't put yourself through that misery...just watch the original, okay?
View the trailer below!
Black & White
Johnny--Jay Kenneth Johnson
Mary Shelley King--Juliet Landau
Vincent King--Sean Kanan
A group of teenage stereotypes from St. Farla Franca college head to a desert island for a biology field trip. They're greeted there by their hosts, an attractive couple known as Vincent and Mary Shelley King. Not only are the students obsessed with film, but so are the Kings, and Mary Shelley is practically never seen without her old-fashioned hand-cranked movie camera.
One by one, the teens are killed off in terrible and unimaginative ways--one victim is even murdered with an axe while the killer screams "Heeeeeeere's Johnny!"
Dropping a few inside jokes every now and then, or scattering a couple of homages throughout the running time is one thing. But this movie hasn't got an original inch in its celluloid canister. When the characters aren't blatantly dropping horror movie titles, they're blatantly quoting from horror movies, and when they're not doing that, they're instead blatantly dropping other pop culture references. Eighty percent of the dialogue seems to have been culled from outside ephemera: "This Bud's for you", "Can you hear me now?", "Same thing we do every night, Pinky: Try to take over the world."
Okay, we fucking get it. You watch a LOT of TV.
Even the Post-Modern, totally self-aware aspect of the film is ripped from Scream (and the imitators that came after it). I really wasn't expecting a great movie when I sat down to watch this--more of just a guilty pleasure that could be enjoyed for the novelty of it. I mean, come on... Danica McKeller, Winnie Freakin' Cooper, being stalked by a psycho? That scored this movie a few points, as did the (rather creepy) twist ending that I honestly didn't see coming, but not even that could save this steaming cess pile.
Imagine if the Scary Movie franchise took itself just a little too seriously, against all better judgment. Would you be able to stomach it?
Yeah, I thought not.
The stereoypical highly-sexual foreign exchange student summed it up best: "They think they're fucking artists? They have no originality!"
"Was Jack Frost or Ghost Dad stupid? Hell no!"
Cyrus Zorba...Donald Woods
Buck Zorba...Charles Herbert
Madea Zorba...Jo Morrow
Ben Rush...Martin Milner
Absent-minded paleontologist Cyrus Zorba inherits a mansion from his recently deceased Uncle Plato, a certified, bonafide and genufied Doctor Of The Occult. The house is fully furnished with a fine set of antique furniture...and maybe even a ghost or twelve. ("You inherit them, too. They go with the house.") Cyrus and his family, in rather dire straights, move into the spooky old manse post-haste, never once bothering to ask, 'if there are only 12 ghosts in the house, why is the movie called 13 Ghosts?'
Perhaps they're looking for someone to join them...
Oh, William Castle, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Well, I won't really count them, but if I did make a list, it would simply read like the man's filmography. Each film of his is completely different and totally enjoyable, and 13 Ghosts is no exception.
It must be said that despite the use of obvious wire-work (floating candlesticks, floating dishes, etc.), the ridiculous notion of ghost-seeing goggles (which made me think of the painful 3-D scene in Freddy's Dead), and the total hokeyness of the ghosts themselves (a ghost lion? Really?), this movie actually managed a few genuinely creepy moments, which are few and far between in not only Castle's films, but many of these older movies. Blame it on modern times. We horror fans have seen so much that we've ultimately become jaded, which is why we seek out these films more and more, like a junkie trying to catch that next high hoping it will feel like the first time once again.
I'm not even much of a fan of the haunted house sub-genre--it seems to me that it is one of the few aspects of horror that has really refused to evolve--but 13 Ghosts is such a hoot that rewatching it almost makes me forget about the cinematic stillbirth that was the 2001 remake.
The prerequisite Castle gimmick this time was Illusion-O, where the audience could pick up a special viewer with two different colored lenses--sort of like 3-D glasses, although the film wasn't in 3-D. Looking through one lens, the ghosts onscreen would be visible; Looking through the other, they could not be seen. This gimmick is not translated to the small screen, which is perhaps for the best. Moviegoers were said to have complained of headaches following the experience.
The interesting thing is that you don't even miss the traditional Castle ballyhoo, or his usual onscreen introduction. The man has a bit of a reputation in more elite circles as being a bit of a hack, but the truth is that his gimmickry was a promotional tool, and not something that the enjoyment of the film depends upon. And don't try to convince me otherwise, because it's not going to happen.
This is a cleverly plotted, expertly crafted thriller. Haters be damned, Long Live The King.
View the trailer below!
Black & White
"Tonight, death walks again in this evil house."
Mr. Davis...Tony Roberts
A school-sponsored film club decides to host an All-Night Horror-A-Thon to raise awareness and funds. Charging ten bucks a head for such films as Mosquito, The Stench, and Attack of the Amazing Electrified Man, it looks like they're going to rake in quite a bit of cabbage. Each of these films was originally released to theaters with a William Castle-style gimmick ("the ballyhoo, the giveaways and the bullshit"): scratch-and-sniff cards, electrified seats, models of gigantic insects flying overhead, etc., and in order to make a splash, they're playing the movies with gimmicks in tact!
Now why can't any theaters around here have the cojones for a stunt like that?
But before the show can go on, the film club has to fix up the Dreamland Theater first. It's being torn down in three weeks, and looks like it hasn't been used in three decades. Luckily, this is (practically) the 1980s, and all it takes is two minutes and a Fixing-Things-Up-To-Cheesy-Music-Montage--the kind made famous in such films as Revenge of the Nerds.
While setting up for the show, they find an old film canister clearly marked "WARNING: DO NOT OPEN!", which, of course, they promptly open, slap in the projector and give a watch. It's kind of like a celluloid version of the video tape from The Ring--a slightly surrealistic amateur film showing a close-up of a mustachioed sleazeball whispering harshly, calling himself The Possessor, and inviting people into his head.
Ooh...spooky. They learn that the man onscreen is actually Lanyard Gates, a deceased cult leader who used to drop acid with his followers, make movies of themselves, and, you know...kill people. What it would have been like if Ken Kesey had seized control of the Manson Family.
Then comes the Big Night, and while the deaths are occurring bloodlessly onscreen, they're occurring slightly-more-bloodily off-screen, as some unknown maniac begins killing off members of the Film Club using the movie's gimmicks against them.
There's no use denying it: I love Popcorn, both the salty buttery snack and the cheesy throwback film. The clips of the movies-within-the-movie weren't real, but they very real could have been, and if I didn't know any better I'd be scouring Amazon right now in search of The Stench, and E-Bay in search of the original Scratch-and-Stench Card. Sure, you're not actually going to be scared while watching this movie; and, okay, it's painfully dated at times. But we horror fans tend to enjoy a little pain--we're sick pups, you and I. The special effects were pretty good (the makeup was supervised by Bob Clark), especially the prosthetic face masks seen towards the end.
There are a lot of fun pop-culture references throughout, and a couple of characters even debate the fact that Police Academy 5 is more important a film than anything in the entire Ingmar Bergman catalog. We do get quite an ugly and theatrical villain--what I imagine the Phantom of the Opera would be like if he was a homosexual Cenobite--, but unfortunately the soundtrack consists of cornball horror movie-themed rock songs and utterly terrible classic-style California ska music, including a completely out of place live performance!
Overall, it's an extremely uneven but pretty damned entertaining film that definitely has its audience. Are you among them?
Double-bill it with Matinee for back-to-back bijou hijinx!
View the trailer below!
"This is the age of safe sex. And sex with you on any level is not safe."
Emil Hyde, writer-director of the movie The Landlord, agreed to partake in a little feature that we like to call 'Horror Hotlist', where members of the indie horror community tell us, the audience, about some of their favorite genre films. Hyde says, "Here's my totally pretentious Top 6 - I try to explain why I like each film, and how it's impacted my own movie-making."
When you're done checking out his list, click here to read my review of his film, and be sure to visit the official website.
1. DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (CEMETERY MAN)
My friends and I stumbled upon CEMETERY MAN during our quixotic attempt to watch *every* movie in our neighborhood video store. With no advance knowledge of the plot, I watched in amazement as writer Gianni Romoli and director Michel Soavri turned the simple tale of a grave-digger at a cemetery where the corpses rise at night into a surreal meditation on relationships - romantic and otherwise - and how we keep making the same mistakes again and again. For lack of a better description, it's DAWN OF THE DEAD meets GROUNDHOG DAY, with lots of sex.
CEMETERY MAN set the bar very high in my mind for how intelligent, beautiful, and unpredictable horror movies can be. It's a standard that most other horror films fall short of, and that I tried my damnedest to match in my own movie, THE LANDLORD.
I usually prefer movies with a decent plot, unless they're Dario Argento movies, in which case they should have no plot at all. Telling a coherent story runs counter to what Argento does best, i.e., capturing the diabolically illogical world of nightmares on celluloid. SUSPRIRIA, for me, is the purest example of Argento's aesthetic. Plot-wise, all you've got is some pretty ballerinas locked in a creepy old dance school, dying in strange, shocking ways. The rest is all style.
And what style! The most noticeable element is the lighting: Argento doesn't bother with a "natural" look... if a particular scene would look scariest with green and blue light, that's what Argento uses, never mind where the green and blue light is supposed to be "coming from". Next comes the music: famed horror soundtrack composers Goblin are at the top of their game, mixing weird Indian percussion and eerie music boxes, with little or none of the 70s disco cheese that creeps into some of their work. Lastly, there's the set design: I was told that Argento had the sets built with the proportions ever so slightly off - ceilings were a little too tall, staircases a little too narrow, doorknobs a little too low. If it's true - and I swear it is - then that explains a lot as to why SUSPIRIA feels more like a nightmare than any other movie I've seen.
I'm not sure how much SUSPIRIA influences my own work: there are some flashback sequences in THE LANDLORD where we imitate Argento's odd lighting schemes to depict the weird, half-remembered feel of childhood memories. But, beyond that, my brain doesn't work like Argento's. I could never make movies like he does, though I'll watch them all day.
NIGHTBREED, like the X-MEN movies, is basically a parable about what it's like to be gay in straight society, with "mutants" and "monsters" standing in for any group that society is too afraid of to accept as human beings. It follows the tradition of FRANKENSTEIN in questioning humanity's compulsion to destroy what it cannot understand. When the police invade the underground monster city of Midian in NIGHTBREED's final scene, they're basically the modern equivalent of a torch-wielding mob.
The most radical thing about NIGHTBREED, that everyone mentions in reviews, is how it presents the monsters in broad daylight, instead of hiding them in shadows. This was risky, especially since makeup effects in 1990 arguably weren't ready for that kind of harsh exposure. But it works on a symbolic level: NIGHTBREED takes monsters out of the darkness, so we can see them in all their complexity and variety. Yes, some are murderous and amoral, but others are ethical and humane, and there's no telling what they're like on the inside by their bizarre exteriors.
In THE LANDLORD, I tried to present the demons the same way, neither purely good nor purely evil, and we also imitate NIGHTBREED by showing our monsters in daylight, sometimes at our own low-budget peril. Beyond that, we make a zillion Clive Barker references in THE LANDLORD, from the fact that the main character's homeowner's insurance is from "MIDIAN FINANCIAL GROUP" (you might need the Blu-Ray to see that detail), to the original Clive Barker painting that the yuppie tenants are hanging on their wall in the opening scene. NIGHTBREED is one of only two horror movies that I'd go out of my way to remake if the opportunity ever presented itself. Best of all, between the comics, the novella, and the innate richness of the mythology, there's plenty of territory you could explore in a NIGHTBREED remake that the original didn't cover.
4. LABERINTO DEL FAUNO (PAN'S LABYRINTH)
If Guillermo del Toro stopped making movies today (Heaven forbid), then PAN'S LABYRINTH would stand as his masterpiece. With this story about a young girl who escapes the horrors of civil war (and an abusive stepfather) by retreating into a dark fantasy world, del Toro proves two points. First, that all those old Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales were infinitely scarier than your average horror movie (at least until Disney defanged them), and second that neither fairy tales nor horror flicks can compete with the real world in terms of sheer brutality and terror.
Seriously, while there may be a few horror fans among the world's arch-psychos (North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il reportedly loves slashers), the fact is that real-world atrocities are more often perpetrated by those who'd ban horror movies than those who enjoy them. Case in point: among the first works of art banned by Hitler's regime were the seminal horror films NOSFERATU and THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (the latter's message that those in power might be crazy really irked the Nazis). Meanwhile, Stalin signed thousands of death warrants while watching... musical comedies!
Getting back to PAN, this movie examines how fantasy is both powerful and powerless in the face of reality, while managing to be a beautiful specimen of fantastic film in its own right (the mythical creatures in the fantasy sequences are shockingly imaginative and beautifully realized). This movie, more than any other, prompted me to inject a dose of reality into THE LANDLORD, giving certain characters real-life problems that are almost scarier than being devoured by demons... almost.
5. THE SHINING
Stephen King might not like what Stanley Kubrick did with his book, but THE SHINING is a "shining" example (go ahead and groan) of how to adapt a novel for the screen. First you read the book, then you study the book, then you toss the book out the window and make the best movie you can out of whatever elements of the book you found most compelling. Which is exactly what Kubrick did.
King's big complaint is that Kubrick's SHINING ignores the central theme of the book, which is that hotel groundskeeper Jack Torrence's descent into demon-induced madness is supposed to parallel his (and King's) alcoholism. And in that respect King's right: by the time Jack Nicholson's Torrence starts drinking in the movie, he's already been driven completely loco by the evil spirits.
But that's irrelevant. Kubrick's movie doesn't care about alcoholism - it's too busy obsessing over the creepiness of empty buildings, the terror of being isolated in the wilderness, the scariness of ax-wielding maniacs, and the spookiness of evil little girls. It's more visual than psychological, which is another way of saying it's more cinematic than literary, which is another way of saying it works better as a movie than a "straight" adaptation of the book ever could (if you don't believe me, watch this then try sitting through the King-approved TV miniseries of the same name).
I'm not ripping on Stephen King - he's a wonderful author, and his books provided my initiation into horror (my deeply religious parents wouldn't let me watch horror movies at home, but I could read King's books in my school's library). But you know what the beauty of it is? We don't have to choose! We can read King's book AND watch Kubrick's movie and appreciate them both for the very different experiences they are. Contrast that to the slavishly literal, frame-for-frame adaptation of WATCHMEN, which looked gorgeous but didn't say anything new. So, in summary, if any best-selling author ever entrusts me with the film rights to their book, they'd better brace themselves for some heavy re-interpretation... Do you hear me, Jack Womack?
6. BAKJWI (THIRST) / NEAR DARK
Yes, I realize you're supposed to do a "Top 5" or a "Top 10", but this is a horror movie list, and 6 is the devil's number, so here's one more for the record...
NEAR DARK was my favorite vampire movie of all time until a month ago, when I finally saw THIRST. I like both of them for the same reason: they take seriously the question of "What would it REALLY be like to become a vampire?"
With endless apologies to the wonderful people who made NEAR DARK, between the two, THIRST offers the more compelling answer. It's an amazing film, and if you haven't seen it already, stop reading this (spoilers below) and rent it right now (it's also available on Netflix Instant).
If you woke up a bloodsucker tomorrow (or should I say "tomorrow night"), would you immediately sever ties to your human friends and family and start hanging out in goth clubs? Probably not. In NEAR DARK, the vampire hero does leave his human family to go marauding with a vampire clan, but he misses them and ultimately returns. THIRST takes this scenario one step further: after a hospital priest turns vampire from a blood transfusion, he continues to minister to his patients (while surreptitiously sucking their blood). And even after he turns his girlfriend into a vampire, they still cart her disabled mother around everywhere they go.
These scenarios play out in ways both hilarious and heartbreaking, with the "horror" arising less from jump-scares than fearing for the characters and worrying if they'll ever escape their fucked-up situation (and this is where NEAR DARK falls just short - its ending is too much of a cop-out, whereas THIRST lets the vampire angle play out to its logical, ghoulish conclusion).
It's worth pointing out that THIRST is a Korean movie, PAN'S LABYRINTH is a Spanish movie, and all the others on this list are old movies. This is not a coincidence. Too many recent American horror movies are either soulless remakes that reheat 70s and 80s "classics" with more explicit, CG-enhanced gore, or soulless splatterfests that invite audiences to laugh at how many inventive ways there are to kill off under-developed characters that no one in the theater gives a shit about. Hollywood isn't telling horror *stories* anymore, it's just peddling slasher nostalgia and death porn. I think the challenge for American horror in the coming decade is to reconnect with its lost humanity, to stop obsessing over effects (although those are useful) and pay more attention to character and story... because, in the end, no cheap jump-scare can compete with seeing characters you love and care about in peril.