Sunday, January 30, 2011

Non-Genre Films on TCM (1.30.11)

A couple of not-quite-genre ficks playing on Turner Classic Movies tonight that may be of interest:  One about a mad artist, one about a femme fatale.  Check 'em out!

5:30 PM Lust For Life (1956)
Passionate biography of painter Vincent van Gogh, whose genius drove him mad.
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, James Donald, Pamela Brown Dir: Vincente Minnelli C-122 mins, TV-PG

12:00 AM Pandora's Box (1929)
A young innocent's sexuality destroys all who come near her. [SILENT]
Cast: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Daisy D'ora, Franz Lederer Dir: G. W. Pabst BW-110 mins, TV-PG

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Badlands (1973)

Badlands

Written & Directed by Terrence Malick

Kit...Martin Sheen
Holly...Sissy Spacek
Father...Warren Oates

Small town James Dean wannabe Kit falls for underage beauty Holly, who, at age 15, is at least one decade his junior.  Her father doesn't much like it, and although he's a bit of an asshole (he shoots Holly's dog when she disobeys him), I can't really say that I blame him.  When he tries to prevent them from seeing each other anymore, ol' Kit Kat guns her old man down and takes Holly with him on the run for a murderous roadtrip.  Like if Richard Stark wrote On the Road.


They hide out in the woods for a while, building an improbable Swiss Family Robinson tree house, until the paradise they had created there is interrupted.  From there, they ride the backroads, traveling from nowhere to nowhere, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake. 


Loosely based on the true crime Starkweather killing spree, this crime drama is a straight-forward journey through the starkness (no pun intended) of rural America, lead by Kit but narrated by Holly.  What's interesting is that the filmmakers portrayed Kit as a sympathetic and enigmatic character, someone who is personable and easily liked, even by the lawmen who pursue him.  This affability doesn't come across as the manipulations of a socipath or a psychotic.  In fact, Kit isn't insane at all, and he doesn't even come across as a bad guy--more like a good guy who is trying too hard to be a bad boy.  Like he tells a policeman, he always wanted to be a criminal...just not this big of one.


Kit lives by a criminal code of his own devise, although it's difficult to tell if it's something that he worked out in advance or if he's making it up as he goes along.  Holly, on the other hand, is just along for the ride much of the time, living life inside her own head, knowing that the misadventure Kit is taking her on is wrong, but unable to take herself out of it.  She's young and innocent, but obviously damaged and vulnerable.  Whether Kit actually loves her, or just sees in her someone who can be easily manipulated is up for debate, but I tend to believe the former...despite the obvious moral implications.  She is only fifteen after all.  I believe the picture below says it all.

Jail ____.

Despite the bleak premise, Badlands actually has a multitude of moments full of hope and promise, and Holly's narration sounds like poetry all the way through.  It plays out very fairly, with no judgment and none of the usual sensationalism, which could be a dangerous thing, according to some people's theories: the romanticizing of the criminal lifestyle is the very thing that lead Kit to murder in the first place.

Obviously the inspiration for True Romance (another great film, which went so far as to utilize the same musical theme) and Natural Born Killers, I do believe that Badlands outshines them both and belongs next to them in any respectable movie collection.

1973
Rated PG
94 Minutes
Color
English
United States

--J/Metro

Friday, January 28, 2011

Genre Films on TCM (01.28.11/01.29.11)

Late tonight/early tomorrow morning on Turner Classic Movies:
Big bears.
Bigger rabbits.
Amen.

2:00am Grizzly (1976)
A giant grizzly terrorizes visitors to a state park.
Cast: Christopher George, Andrew Prine, Richard Jaeckel, Joan McCall Dir: William Girdler C-91 mins, TV-14

3:45am Night Of The Lepus (1972)
Husband-and-wife scientists unwittingly unleash a horde of giant man-eating rabbits.
Cast: Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelley Dir: William F. Claxton C-89 mins, TV-14

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dolly Dearest (1992)

Dolly Dearest

Written & Directed by Maria Lease

Elliot Wade...Sam Bottoms
Marilyn Wade...Denise Crosby
Jessica Wade...Candace Hutson
Jimmy Wade...Chris Demetral
Karl Resnick...Rip Torn

Toymaker Elliot Wade uproots his American family and moves them to Mexico when he purchases the Dolly Dearest Doll Factory, where the world's finest hand-crafted dolls are produced.  Upon arriving, they realize that the factory is going to be a lot more work than initially thought, especially considering the factory isn't so much a factory as it is a ramshackle warehouse with dusty doll parts scattered everywhere.  But Elliot is committed to the dream (why a grown man is so obsessed with making dolls is beyond me), and so he digs in his heels and gets down to business.


The very first doll out of the Dolly Dearest estate is given pro bono (fun fact:  pro bono is Latin for Professional Bono) to Elliot's young daughter Jessica, who develops a very strong attachment to the toy, which she (unimaginatively) names Dolly.  She lugs it with her everywhere, plays with it, and even holds full conversations with it.

Surely this is just a childish coping mechanism used to deal with the fact that her entire life has been reordered, that she is living in a strange town in a strange country, and that she has had to leave all of her little play friends behind.  I mean, it's not like the doll has been possessed by some ancient evil that escaped from the archaeological dig positioned right next door.

Right?


Of course the doll has been possessed by some ancient evil that has escaped from the archaeological dig positioned right next door!  This is a horror movie, after all.  And before you scream "spoiler!", the audience knows that this is what happened before the opening credits even begin.

Sure, it's a bit cheesy.  Sure, the script meanders more than it should.  Sure, it's obviously derivative of the Child's Play series, which is why it was almost universally panned by critics.  But let's be honest, Child's Play itself was just a variation on a theme that had been around for decades anyway.  And sure, Dolly Dearest doesn't bring anything new to the table.  But I have to say this for Dolly Dearest:  It never tries to be anything more than what it is.

It's a schlocky, direct-to-video killer doll slasher flick just like you've seen a dozen times before.  That being said, it's also pretty damn fun if you go into it with the right mind set--and maybe a six pack or two.  The acting is, for the most part, pretty decent and the animatronics are well done, too.  This movie takes a lot of heat, even to this day, but truth be told, Dolly Dearest is no worse of a movie than some of the Child's Play entries--and I'm fairly certain it's better than at least one or two of them.  (Seed of Chucky, I'm lookin' at you!)  The only thing it's missing is the vocal talents of Brad Dourif.

Perhaps sometime in the future we'll see the Mistress of Chucky, in which ol' Chucklehead steps out to Mexico for a belated bachelor party, and winds up nailing the stripper, a brunette who goes by the dance name Dolly Dearest.

Come on.  You know you would watch it.


1992
Rated R
93 Minutes
Color
English
United States

"I am not losing my daughter to a goddamn 900 year old goat head!"
--J/Metro

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Severed Arm (1973)

The Severed Arm

Written & Directed by Thomas S. Alderman

Jeff Ashton...David G. Cannon
Dr. Sanders...John Crawford
Bill...Vince Martorano
Mark...Paul Carr
Madman Herman...Marvin Kaplan

After "five nightmarish years", the past comes back to haunt a group of estranged friends.  It seems that they all used to share a bit of a foolish hobby:  exploring old, abandoned mines without any concern for their personal well-being.  A hobby like that is going to go south sooner or later (which is why I stick to safer pastimes, like comic book collecting and chain smoking), and a cave-in leaves them trapped beneath the earth, with "no food, and damn little water."


It's actually pretty impressive that they managed to last as long as they did before losing their shit.  After a week, one of them recounts a story about sailors trapped at sea who resorted to cannibalism to survive.  They laugh this off at first, some sort of a sick joke, but a few more weeks later, and it's suddenly not seeming like such a bad idea.

They don't want to kill anyone, of course.  They just want to feast on him.  So they draw straws to see who the lucky donor is, knock his ass out, and chop off the poor fellow's arm.  But no sooner than the hatchet is through the sinew do they hear the tell-tale sounds of a rescue crew.  The remaining quadrupeds blame the amateur amputation on the victim himself, saying that he had gone crazy and cut off his own arm in some misguided attempt at heroism.

Flash forward to "modern" day, and the One-Armed Wonder has escaped from the mental institution and is seeking revenge.

Give him a hand, ladies and gentlemen!

When I saw this available for streaming on Netflix Instant Watch, I was hoping this was some undiscovered gem, on par with Blood Feast, whose sparkling qualities couldn't immediately be seen because it was so thoroughly coated in slime and sleaze.  What I found instead was that there was a definite reason that this has remained undiscovered:  Every time someone discovers it, they are quick to put it back where they found it.


The acting is mediocre, and the special effects and musical score must have cost the filmmakers less than a hundred dollars--even less if they already had a Casiotone Keyboard on hand.  The gore was painfully restrained, and there was virtually no eye candy to be found.  Hell, there weren't even eye carrots.  The majority of this movie was just a bunch of guys shambling around, waiting to die, and being pretty damn passive about the whole thing.

 To be fair, the opening flashback to the fivesome being trapped in the cave had promise, as did the finale.  It's just too bad that both were rushed over so quickly, playing terribly thin but tasty bread on a steaming pile of crap sandwich.

An almost mind-numbingly dull proto-slasher flick.  I'd be hard-pressed to find much of a reason to recommend this to anyone.

Although that title screen was pretty damn sweet.


1973
Rated R
89 Minutes
Color
English
United States

"I asked you to wait...I begged you...I won't forget!"
--J/Metro

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spatter Analysis #3: December 2010




The cover image above was graciously donated by undead artist supreme Jeremy of iZombie fame.

EDITORIAL
Yes, I'm well aware that this issue of SPATTER ANALYSIS: THE HORROR MAGAZINE YOU WROTE is roughly a month late, as it should have appeared at the beginning of January rather than the end.  Luckily, my New Year's resolution wasn't punctuality, otherwise I would be off to a terrible start.  My resolution for 2011 is to be even more me than I've ever been before.  Because let's face it:  I'm pretty damn perfect just the way I am.  (Although I keep hearing my wife mutter something about humility, whatever that's supposed to mean...)  Now, before this issue becomes any later than it already is, let's just get on with the show. --J/Metro
NOTE:  None of the articles below are hosted on my blog, and the authors retain sole ownership. The links are provided here without explicit permission in many cases, because, as far as I know, linking with proper attribution does not go against proper blogger etiquette. Consider this the Midnite Media equivalent of an award, only rather than be awarded for your blog overall, it's for a specific post. You know what that means, don't you? More chances to win! Anywho, if for whatever reason you would like the link to your post removed, just let me know and I'll do away with it like I was Paulie Walnuts and this was the Pine Barrens.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Best Films of 2010: Samityville, of Nightmare on Samityville Street, counts down his favorite films of the year just past.

Worst Films of 2010:  In a rare twofer, Samityville gets a second stab in this month's issue, counting down his least favorite films of 2010.

Top 10 Impacts of Horror on 2010:  R.D. Penning of Dead End Drive-In runs down the ten events that he feels had the most impact on our beloved genre during 2010.

"You Are Not Content With The Stories, So I Was Obliged To Come":  CRWM of And Now The Screaming Starts beautifully argues against urban horror classic Candyman being labeled a 'slasher' film.

What's Black And White And Dead All Over?:  Jeff of Dinner With Max Jenke takes a fresh look at an old classic, George Romero's Night of the Living Dead.

The Church of Vampirism (Or How I Learned To Stop Fearing Women Named Carmilla):  Aaron of Dread Carcosa ruminates on the power of religious symbols in the vampire myth.

Here There Be Monsters -- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley:  In a previous issue, Joe Monster of From Beyond Depraved feasted on Dracula.  Now he's piecing together his thoughts on that other classic...

The Saga of Victims:  Gilligan of Retrospace takes a look back at an underground grindhouse comic series that ran in the back pages of the now-defunct Scream magazine, both of which are begging for a comeback.

Who Needs Birth Control? -- Terrifying Births In Horror History:  Andre from The Horror Digest will never get pregnant.  Horror movies are the reason why.

Eaten By The Monster Of Obsession:  Emily of Without Obsession Life Is Nothing meets her idol: the one, the only...Mr. John Waters.

Horror Porn Rises Again:  Pax Romano of Billy Loves Stu gives us a pictorial examination of, well...I believe the title speaks for itself.  (NSFW)

Friday, January 21, 2011

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

American Psycho
By Bret Easton Ellis

This paperback had been collecting dust on my bookshelf for some time, but I had seen the film version upon its initial release, and being less-than-impressed, I felt no rush to dive into the source material.  But recently I had seen some favorable reviews of the author's other work, and since I had a lack of other reading material at the time, I figured what the hell?

It's the late 1980s.  The heyday of bad hair and worse music, acid washed jeans and AIDS.  But beyond all that, it is the Age of the Yuppie, that curiously pretentious breed of young professional who craves nothing more than status and envy, making more money than most of us will ever see, and blowing it all on fine clothes, cocaine, hookers and hair product.  They are motivated by greed and popular opinion, always having to have the latest fashions, eat at the trendiest restaurants, and play with the most expensive toys.

Patrick Bateman is perhaps your prototypical yuppie.  He seems to have it all, and yet it's still not enough.  He wants more, and more, and more.

He knows full well that you want his life, and he's okay with that.  Because he wants your life too.  Or, more precisely, he wants to take your life, and watch with pleasure as you gasp your last breath as a result of his actions.

Told in first person, narrated almost as if we were eavesdropping on Bateman's own private thought processes, what is initially most disturbing is how casually he mentions his little hobby, dropping it in amidst his other daily activities:  woke up, went to work, disemboweled a prostitute on my lunch break, made plans to see Cats on Broadway, rented a video on my way home.  He's so nonchalant and undetailed that we almost don't believe him, much like his friends and coworkers.  Bateman occasionally drops hints to others about his true nature, and they either think he's telling a sick joke or pay no attention to him whatsoever.

But as the pages roll on, Bateman begins to let us into his murderous games more and more, to the point where we almost wish he would stop.  Graphic scenes of sexuality quickly devolve into even more graphic scenes of torture and murder until we realize that sex and death are interchangeable with this sick man--they are, after all, the only two methods of release that he has.  The only times he is free to be himself.

American Psycho is obviously, at least in part, a scathing satire of that peculiar subculture.  However, we are so far removed from that culture at this point in time that it is sometimes difficult to discern what Ellis is trying to get at.  If it took place only a decade or so later, Bateman would have been a dot-com millionaire, and perhaps easier for us in this day to comprehend.  A few decades may as well be a few centuries with as fast as the world changes these days.

He seems, at least to me, to be commenting on the identity of others--or the lack thereof--when one is focused solely on themselves.  Throughout the book, there are dozens of instances in which characters confuse one person with another, and indeed mistaken identity is a recurring theme here.  In theory, this could appear to be a theme devised by a particularly devious humanitarian, but it's difficult to imagine any humanitarian who would detail the atrocities that Ellis spells out for us here.

American Psycho.  I alternately loved it and hated it, was compelled and repelled.  There are a lot of books that have the power to polarize its readers into two distinct camps.  It's rare to find one that has the power to polarize a single reader into the same.

Guess it's time to give that movie another shot.

--J/Metro

Genre Films on TCM (01.21.11)

Classic film lovers rejoice!  Turner Classic Movies is broadcasting a number of great genre films of various stripes today.  Check out the line up!

9:00am Beast With Five Fingers, The (1946)
After a famous pianist's murder, his hand returns to wreak vengeance.
Cast: Robert Alda, Andrea King, Peter Lorre, Victor Francen Dir: Robert Florey BW-89 mins, TV-PG

4:15pm Black Hand (1950)
In turn-of-the-century New York, an Italian seeks vengeance on the mobsters who killed his father.
Cast: Gene Kelly, J. Carrol Naish, Teresa Celli, Marc Lawrence Dir: Richard Thorpe BW-92 mins, TV-PG

6:00pm Beneath The 12-Mile Reef (1953)
Love brings together two families of rival sponge fishers.
Cast: Robert Wagner, Terry Moore, Gilbert Roland, J. Carrol Naish Dir: Robert D. Webb C-101 mins, TV-G

8:00pm City Streets (1931)
A racketeer must choose between his criminal life and love.
Cast: Gary Cooper, Sylvia Sidney, Paul Lukas, Wynne Gibson Dir: Rouben Mamoulian BW-82 mins

9:30pm Scarface (1932)
A murderous thug shoots his way to the top of the mobs while trying to protect his sister from the criminal life.
Cast: Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley, Osgood Perkins Dir: Howard Hawks BW-94 mins, TV-PG

11:15pm Little Caesar (1930)
A small-time hood shoots his way to the top, but how long can he stay there?
Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Glenda Farrell, William Collier Jr. Dir: Mervyn LeRoy BW-79 mins, TV-PG

12:45am Mayor Of Hell, The (1933)
A racketeer goes straight to run a reform school.
Cast: James Cagney, Madge Evans, Arthur Byron, Allen Jenkins Dir: Archie Mayo BW-90 mins, TV-PG

2:15am Bloody Birthday (1980)
Three children born at the height of a total eclipse become heartless killers.
Cast: Susan Strasberg, Jose Ferrer, Lori Lethin, Melinda Cordell Dir: Ted G Vujovich C-92 mins

3:45am Bad Seed, The (1956)
A woman suspects that her perfect little girl is a ruthless killer.
Cast: Gage Clarke, Jesse White, Joan Croyden, Bill Hopper Dir: Mervyn LeRoy C-129 mins, TV-PG

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Genre Film on TCM (01.20.11)

Only one film catching my eye on Turner Classic Movies today.  Or, it at least sounds interesting to me.  Check it out.

1:45pm Psyche 59 (1964)
After being blinded in a mysterious fall, a woman fears her husband is involved with her younger sister.
Cast: Patricia Neal, Curt Jurgens, Samantha Eggar, Ian Bannen Dir: Alexander Singer BW-94 mins, TV-PG

--J/Metro

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Genre Film on TCM (01.19.11)

Turner Classic Movies.
Tonight.
Martin Sheen.
Sissy Spacek.
Warren Oates.
Need I say more?

Okay, well, maybe just a little more.

8:00pm Badlands (1973)
A young tough guy and his teen-aged girlfriend take off on a killing spree.
Cast: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates, Ramon Bieri Dir: Terrence Malick C-94 mins, TV-14

Be bad. Be very, very bad.
--J/Metro

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Walking Dead Mini-thon Begins Tonight (01.18.10)

Heya, Hipsters!

Just a heads up:  AMC is beginning their 2-night marathon of The Walking Dead tonight.  Episodes 1 - 3 begin at 8:00 PM tonight, and episodes 4 - 6 will air tomorrow night at the same time, closing out the season.  If you missed an episode, this is your chance to catch up!

--J/Metro

Monday, January 17, 2011

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre:  The Beginning

Written by Sheldon Turner
Directed by Jonathon Liebsman

Eric...Matthew Bomer
Dean...Taylor Handley
Chrissie...Jordanna Brewster
Bailey...Diora Baird
Hoyt...R. Lee Ermey
Leatherface...Andrewn Bryniarski

Remakes are a risky endeavour, especially when it comes to pleasing the horror fan.  Drafting a prequel to that remake, well...that's just ballsy.

The film begins in August 1939 with a painful birth at the slaughterhouse.  The woman in question births a hideous excuse for a baby boy, and he is promptly deposited in the dumpster.  A brief time later, a member of the Hewitt family finds this monstrosity ("That's the ugliest thing I ever saw."), and raises it as if it were her own.

Thirty years later:  The slaughter house has closed.  The town has gone bankrupt, and ceased to even be called a town.  There are only the Hewitt family (who have lived in the area for generations) and a few last minute stragglers left.  Before long, the stragglers are gone.  And not of their own volition.


Cut (no pun intended) to four attractive youngsters--brothers Dean and Eric, and their girlfriends Chrissie and Bailey--on a roadtrip of sorts, a final hurrah before the boys head off to Vietnam.  But there are a lot of things standing in their way:  a gang of bikers, an exploding cow, and yes, the crazy motherfuckers known as the Hewitt clan, who kidnap and torment them for one night of utter terror.

Led by Charlie (AKA Sheriff Hoyt), enforced by former-dumpster-baby-turned-serial-slaughterer Thomas (AKA Leatherface), cared for by Luda Mae (AKA Mama), and aided by Monty (AKA The Full Monty), the Hewitt family is the Wu Tang Clan of Texas.  They ain't nothin' to fuck with, son.

Scenes of gruesome carnage, gooey gore and tubs of the red stuff abound in this film.  It's very well shot, scored, and acted.  It's exciting, it's gross, and it's a lot of fun.  So why, pray tell, is Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning so underrated?


One word:  Surprise.

More specifically, the lack of surprise.  Sure, it's nice to see when ol' Tommy H. discovered his first chainsaw, and how Charlie managed to win the election for Sheriff, and even how Monty lost his legs.  But the problem is, going into this film we already know that Charlie is going to be Sheriff, Monty is going to lose his legs, and we sure as hell know that Tom-Tom is going to get his hands on a chainsaw.  We already know the fate of every character involved in the film before the opening credits start to roll.  It's almost as if a rather obnoxious friend spoiled the end to the film while we were waiting in line to buy tickets.  You know the guy I'm talking about:  The one who said "You haven't seen Sixth Sense yet?  You have to see it!  It's awesome!  Bruce Willis is the reincarnated spirit of H.P. Lovecraft."

NOTE:  Bruce Willis's character in Sixth Sense was not actually the reincarnated spirit of H.P. Lovecraft.  But there are probably 8 or 10 people left in the world who have not actually seen the film, and I don't want to become the very asshole friend that I'm speaking of above.

This, of course, is the danger of all prequels--building up to events that we have already seen.  This is obviously not a completely original film.  It's more like...original twice removed, if that makes any sense.  But, as with the previous entry in the franchise, if viewed as just another heretofore-unseen outing of the Hewitt family, it's still an enjoyable (if somewhat vapid) flick.


Its just too bad that the filmmakers seemed preoccupied with giving backstory to superficial plot elements, rather than answer any real questions.  You know, like, why the hell is the entire family utterly insane?  How did Leatherface go from being just another ugly baby to being a chainsaw wielding maniac?  Thirty years of his life are skipped completely over, making the subtitle The Beginning negligible at best.  It feels as if the two films were accidentally released out of chronological order, The Beginning seeming more like Part One than an actual prequel.  So just do what I did:  Wait a few years between viewings, then watch them back-to-backwards.

Call me crazy, but I'm clammoring for at least two more films in this franchise:  one that shows the actual beginning (i.e., Lil' Leatherface exploring the world as a wide-eyed burgeoning mini-maniac), and another that shows an actual finale (i.e., the members of the Hewitt clan meeting their grisly end).  I know, I know...four films may be pushing the limits of good taste.  But it can't be any worse than Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

Otherwise known as the movie that inexplicably didn't kill Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey's careers.

All right, all right, all right.

2006
Rated R
91 Minutes
Color
English
United States

"Meat is meat.  Bone is bone."
--J/Metro

Friday, January 14, 2011

Genre Films on TCM (01.14.11/01.15.11)

Late tonight/early tomorrow morning, Turner Classic Movies is playing a double-feature of Japanese horror films, both staring Shigreu Amachi and directed by Nobuo Nakagawa--if that means anything to you.  Check 'em out.

2:30am Jigoku (1960)
A student's life changes forever when his friend involves him in a hit and run.
Cast: Shigreu Amachi, Utako Mitsuya, Yoichi Numata. Dir: Nobuo Nakagawa C-101 mins, TV-MA

4:15am Tokaido Yotsuya kaidan (1959)
A samurai's wife returns from the dead for revenge.
Cast: Shigeru Amachi, Noriko Kitazawa, Katsuko Wakasugi. Dir: Nobuo Nakagawa C-77 mins, TV-14

Domo Arragato,
--J/Metro

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Written by Scott Kosar
Directed by Marcus Nispel

Erin...Jessica Biel
Kemper...Eric Balfour
Morgan...Jonathon Tucker
Pepper...Erica Leerhsen
Andy...Mike Vogel
Hoyt...R. Lee Ermy
Leatherface...Andrew Bryniarski

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Those four words are enough to make nearly every horror movie fan titter with excitement and glee.  Tobe Hooper's drive-in classic has become a beloved stape in the genre, and is among my absolute favorite horror flicks of all time.  So when I had first learned that they were releasing a big budget remake, I was simultaneously thrilled and sickened.  I mean, why remake such a seminal film when the original is still so beloved, and still so readily available?

However...it would be nice to see ol' Leatherface on the big screen again.


Five attractive young people (they're always young and attractive, aren't they?) are en route to Dallas for a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert.  Somewhere along the way--in a town that can only be considered The Middle of Nowhere--they stop to pick up a hitchiker.  She is badly shaken, possibly wounded, and very likely mentally deranged.  As their van heads in what the girl insists is the wrong direction, she loses her shit, pulls a hand gun out of Felix the Cat's magic bag (meow!), and blows her fucking head off.

Enter the sheriff of this 2-bit town, an unshaven rough-and-tumble asshole named Hoyt who would give Dirty Harry pause.  His investigation into the death of this young girl seems less concerned with determining the reason and cause, and more concerned with scaring the piss out of the youngsters.  Well that, and giving his mutant nephew with the funny face someone to play with.


You know the rest, and if you don't, you need only read the title of the film to figure it out.

The actors all did fine jobs, including Jessica Biel (A hot chick with solid acting chops?  Step aside Jessica Alba.  You too, Megan Fox!), and the cinematography was excellent.  If you're not paying attention, you could miss it--but there is some beauty hidden beneath all that bloodshed.

Initially, I was slightly unforgiving of this film. This wasn't my Chainsaw Massacre. This was the flashy-pants Chainsaw Massacre of a new generation. A generation who wouldn't know true horror if it jumped out of the closet and stabbed them in the face.

But more and more I came to realize that even though this wasn't my Chainsaw Massacre, it was still a Chainsaw Massacre, and that's still a hell of a cool thing to be. Since Leatherface has been the only constant character in all of the original TCM series, if I were so inclined, I could view this as merely another of his zany adventures, as opposed to a literal remake, and that makes it much easier to stomach.

Granted, one can not watch this film without comparing it to the original--it simply can't be done.  And in that battle of the chains, there is no contest.  The original walks away the winner every damn time.


Sure, this version has a bigger budget and better acting, and on a technical level it makes the original seem like amateur hour.  Yes, this version isn't quite so over-the-top.  And yes, this version features a grim and gritty locale that makes you need a shower just by watching it.  But it's such a glossy version of grime and grit, such a stylized attempt at raw and unbridled horror, that you never forget you're watching a movie.

Showing the violence and the gore in such an in-your-face method may cause you to turn your head in disgust, and it may even cause you to jump a little in shock.  But once it's done, it's done.  It does not linger with you.  This is what the original has over the remake--no matter how many times I see it, if watched in the proper setting, I walk away with a general feeling of unease that clings to the reptilian recesses of my brain and won't let go.

It may not be pretty.  But it's pretty damn effective.

Still, taken in its own right, this Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a hell of a trip, one that deserves to be judged of its own accord, without prejudice of the greatness that came before.

Well, as best as possible, anyway.

Hell, it's ten times better than most of the sequels, at least.

2003
Rated R
98 Minutes
Color
English
United States

"You're so dead you don't even know it!"
--J/Metro

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Counter Culture Comedies on TCM (01.13.11)

Just a heads up:  Bizarre counter-culture comedy I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968) is playing on Turner Classic Movies late tonight, starting at 11:45 PM, followed by What's New, Pussycat?--both starring Peter Sellers.

Groovy!
--J/Metro

The Beast Within (1982)

The Beast Within

Written by Tom Holland
Directed by Philippe Mora
Based on the novel by Edward Levy

Caroline...Bibi Besch
Eli...Ronny Cox
Michael...Paul Clemens
Amanda...Katherine Moffat

Seventeen years ago, Caroline MacCleary was beaten and raped in the woods while on her honeymoon.  Found and rescued by her husband Eli, they later discover that she is pregnant with the offspring of the man (?) who forced himself upon her.  Together, Caroline and Eli make the difficult decision to keep the child, and raise it as if it were the product of their loving union, rather than a hateful one.


Modern day:  Teenage Michael MacCleary is hospitalized for an unusual malady, one which the doctors have no methods of treatment.  His metabolism is working at an advanced-rate, and no matter how much he consumes, it is never enough.  In other words, a Hungry Man dinner just isn't going to cut it.

So this hungry man sneaks out of the hospital and kills--then promptly chows down on--the publisher of a local paper.  Feeling revitalized, Michael is released from the hospital.  But it's only a matter of time before he starts to feel worn down again...


While this could have been a simple film about madness passed down from one generation of madman to another, it instead turns out to be something of a supernatural revenge thriller, with mutants and murder and mayhem, oh my!  Imagine a Southern-fried werewolf film...only instead of a werewolf, it was something like a...werecicada.

If not for the graphic violence, rape, and occasional foul language, The Beast Within would almost seem like a particularly-strong Made-for-TV movie, back in the day when Made-for-TV movies could be good (i.e., Duel). I didn't go into this film with the highest of hopes, so I was particularly surprised with how much I liked it. My only qualm lies in the final 20 minutes or so of the movie, when Michael gives himself over fully to the Beast Within, turning into a cheesy mess of latex and practical FX. The movie would have been better served if the transformation scenes had remained a little more restrained, as they had during the earlier scenes.


Still, a great bit of 1980s horror with just the right amount of sleaze-'n'-cheese sprinkled in for good measure.

1982
Rated R
98 Minutes
Color
English
United States

"You boys are always dropping things.  My guess is you play with yourself too much."
--J/Metro

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Graves (2009)

The Graves

Written & Directed by Brian Pulido

Meg Graves...Clare Grant
Abby Graves...Jillian Murray
Reverend Abraham...Tony Todd
Jonah...Shane Stevens
Caleb...Bill Mosley

Hottie rock and/or roll sisters Meg and Abby Graves hit the open road in search of adventure, wanting one last huzzah before real life and career opportunities separate them.  They drive deep into the Arizona desert, heading to the World's Largest Thermometer, but wind up lost.  Because this is, after all, a horror movie.


Stopping in the small town of Unity for lunch and directions, the girls discover that they are far from their intended destination.  Don't worry, says the helpful waitress.  Unity has a tourist attraction all its own that puts that stupid thermometer to shame:  Skull City, a now-abandoned mining village that is said to be haunted.


A few miles (and fourteen dollars) later, and the Girly Graves quickly realize that if Skull City is haunted, it is probably haunted by the murdered yahoos who swing by for a visit.  Run by a family of quirky killer locals, Skull City gives the term tourist trap a whole new meaning.

The expected antics ensue:  girls witness a murder, girls run, girls fall, girls meet up with fellow survivor, fellow survivor survives no more, girls run some more, girls think they find help, girls are wrong, etc. etc. etc.

The problem with The Graves is that it is perfectly content to follow all of the pre-designated, unwritten rules of the genre, never once attempting to color outside the lines.  It brings absolutely nothing new to the table, and could essentially have been constructed from scenes clipped from a hundred other movies.  It's not a boring film, but because we've seen it all so many times before, it seems boring.  One can enjoy reruns only so many times.  When a horror flick relies so heavily on cameos from genre mainstays, it's not usually a good sign (although I could probably watch Bill Mosley and Tony Todd eat brunch, and at least be a little frightened.)


[Begin rant]

It struck me as pretty tacky and desperate for the film to start at (the real) Atomic Comics, where the girls looked into the camera and suggested that we read the Lady Death titles (created by writer-director Brian Pulido, natch!).  If I wanted shameless product placement, I'd watch a Stephen Spielberg film.  And then to have musicians Calabrese turn up--as themselves!?--in a pointless cameo?  I think someone has been cribbing tactics from the last couple seasons of CSI.  Only John Mayer was replaced with a spooky punk band, and nobody got raped at their concert.  Pulido is semi-famous for his independent comic book work, and he obviously wanted to continue his legacy here with a horror film.  But when you start using the worst of Hollywood's sensibilities in an indie setting, you can no longer lay claim to being daring and independent.  You just become a poverty row parody of the very things you eschew.

[End rant]

Strictly mediocre, hipsters.  And yet, somehow, this is still getting a sequel:  later this year, we will Return to Grave City.  I don't know.  Maybe I outgrew these 'desperate-to-be-cool' flicks around the same time that I outgrew Hot Topic.

That's right.  I'm old.

Deal with it, bitches.

2009
Rated R
88 Minutes
Color
English
United States

--J/Metro

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Crawlspace (1986)

Crawlspace

Written & Directed by David Schmoeller

Mr. Gunther...Klaus Kinski
Lori Bancroft...Talia Balsam
Josef Steiner...Kenneth Robert Shippy

Kreepy Klaus Kinsky plays Creepy Mr. Gunther, a former doctor turned apartment building landlord in this twisted pic.  If you were to walk into Gunther's building, you would be in for quite the peepshow surprise: each and every one of his aparments is rented to a beautiful woman.  It's a bachelor's paradise.  Unfortunately, the only bachelor allowed on the premises is Mr. Gunther himself.


Gunther doesn't rent exclusively to women just to make the hallways more aesthetically pleasing.  It goes deeper than that, as he uses his tenants to feed his sick psyche.  Utilizing a seemingly-impossible network of tunnels behind the walls (the titular crawlspaces), he spies on the women through the air vents, his own personal soap opera--and sometimes porno.

In this respect, Crawlspace is a lot like Sliver.  Only without video cameras, and 100% Baldwin free.  And, perhaps unfortunately, not nearly as sleazy as it could have (should have?) been.

In time, Gunther grows tired of one tenant or another, and he has to "evict" them--which he does with a little good old fashion murder (a skill he probably inherited from his Nazi father).  After the clean-up, it's only a matter of time until the next lovely lady comes strolling through that door, suitcase in hand.


An odd combination of psychological drama, arthouse-slasher flick, and slice-of-life vignettes, this movie spirals slowly and deliberately until the final 20 minutes or so, when it becomes a deliciously tense thriller.  Artful cinematography backed by great musical accompaniment, coupled with Kinsky's skin-crawling performance makes this a heck of a good ride--although, truth be told, if anyone else were in the lead role, this could have been only moderately entertaining.


Definitely worth the price of admission, hipsters.

1986
Rated R
80 Minutes
Color
English
United States

"I used to kill in the name of science.  Now I kill because I'm addicted to killing.  It's the only way I can feel alive."
--J/Metro

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hard Ride To Hell (2010)

Hard Ride To Hell

Written by Matthew Chernov, David Rosiak, & Penelope Buitenhuis
Directed by Penelope Buitenhuis

Jason...Sebastian Gacki
Danny...Brendan Penny
Tessa...Laura Mennell
Kerry...Katherine Isabelle
Dirk...Brandon Jay McLaren
Bob Weaver...Brent Strait
Jefe...Miguel Ferrer

A group of vacationing pretty young folk in what can only be called a big-ass RV pull off at a desolate Texas roadside campground to rest up for the night.  Being pretty young folk, they do exactly what pretty young folk always do when they're alone in nature:  They get rip-roaring drunk.  Surprisingly, they don't engage in premarital sex, but presumably this is only because their night was interrupted before the panties could hit the floor.

Gossip rag reporter Dirk accidentally stumbles upong a gang of satanic bikers engaging in a sacrificial cannibalistic ceremony, one that said bikers understandably would like to keep secret.  In short order, Dirk leads the leather-clad legion to his friends.  Some are beaten...some are eaten...and some are not nearly so lucky.


Here's a little history lesson on how this movie came about:

Imagine a nervous intern at the offices of the television show Supernatural.  He's making copies of two different scripts that that show's writers have just completed--one, a remake of the 1971 Brittish biker flick Psychomania, the other a remake of 1975's Race With the Devil.  The intern, probably riddled with prescription drugs, accidentally shuffles the two scripts together into one big pile before binding them together.  He delivers this movie mishmash to the studio executives, who scratch their heads in confusion before finally shrugging, and giving the green light.

Okay, I confess.  None of that actually happened, but at least it gives you a fairly accurate idea of what this movie is.  It's a modestly-budgeted rehash of themes that haven't been fresh for at least thirty years.  There's very little that is original here, and although the filmmakers are attempting to document a grim and gritty subject--cannibalistic satanic bikers, what's grittier than that?--the film is too pretty and polished to do so successfully.


It should be noted that although the themes on display here are reminsicent of the 'seventies, this is not a fauxsploitation film that pretends to be from that decade--it's a modern film and doesn't deny it.  It could easily have lapsed into cheap exploitation and sleaze, succumbing to gratuitous nudity and degredation, but it never does, instead taking itself (somewhat) seriously as a genre film.  All of which should please some people and possibly irritate some others, depending on your personal tastes.

Overall, it had its moments and was pretty well-paced, but it wasn't a spectacular piece of cinema.  To be fair, though, I've seen far worse pictures with far bigger budgets.  Probably worth a rental for fans of bad biker pics and satanist schlock, but I can't advise purchasing it for your collection.


2010
Not Rated
94 Minutes
English
Color
United States

"We're desolation.  We're damnation.  And you belong to us."
--J/Metro

Monday, January 3, 2011

Don't Look In The Basement (1973)

Don't Look In The Basement

Written by Tim Pope
Directed by S.F. Brownrigg

Charlotte...Rosie Holotik
Dr. Masters...Anabelle Weenick
Sam...William Bill McGhee
Harriet...Camilla Carr
Judge Oliver...Gene Ross
Danny...Jessie Kirby


The Stephens Sanitarium isn’t exactly what you would expect. The patients and the staff share living quarters, there are no locks on the doors, they don’t believe in the doctor-patient relationship—everyone here is family. And it’s Dr. Stephens belief that insanity isn’t so much a mental illness as it is a series of obsessions. He believes these obsessions must be nurtured and fed so that they grow so powerful that the patient is forced to utilize his willpower to combat them. This is directly responsible for his downfall, as patient “Judge” Oliver W. Cameron kills him during what can only be called “Axe Therapy.”


Enter Charlotte Beale, the new head nurse, who arrives to find the hospital in disarray as Dr. Geraldine Masters has taken the reigns of control. After many a dangerous encounter, she wants desperately to leave, but Dr. Masters won’t allow her. Perhaps that’s because the doctor is hiding something, and I suggest Charlotte look in the basement to find out what.

Any film taking place in an asylum is bound to have an array of interesting characters. We’ve got a moralistic madman, an old woman without a tongue, a shell-shocked war veteran, a “mother” who totes around a baby doll, a hulking lobotomy victim, a hyena-like prankster, and a woman who (thankfully) can’t seem to keep her top on.


The acting, however, isn’t always up to snuff, and the characters seem to rely on close-ups and exaggerated facial contortions to get their points across. Nobody really seems crazy, they just seem like they’re acting crazy—and not very well, either. Only Sam of the botched-lobotomy club is remotely believable, playing up the eight-year-old mentality trapped in the body of a giant.

The plot chugs along at a snail’s clip, and mostly it’s just one scene of cuckoo behavior after another, without having much influence on the rest of the film. Since the majority of the action is shown on camera, there’s no real suspense or major questions waiting to be answered. And although we never saw what was lingering in the basement beforehand, by the time we found out, we had already pieced it together.

Shocker.

Basically, this is just a decent waste of time if you enjoy a little ‘Seventies drive-in cheese now and then. And who doesn’t? But there are far better and far more entertaining such films.

ALSO KNOWN AS: The Forgotten; Don't Go In The Basement; Death Ward #13

1973
Rated R
89 minutes
Color
USA
English

--J/Metro

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bad People Make Good Money

The fine folks over at Bad People Motion Pictures have been running a campaign over at Kickstarter (a great resource for the DIYers, by the way) in order to attain funding for their upcoming feature film, The Age of Reason.  I've been following these fellas since I first saw their film Fever Night, and in support offered a link to their fundraising page at the top of this blog.

I just wanted to give a special thanks to everyone who visited the link, and an even bigger thanks to those who donated a little something-something to the cause. They surpassed their goal of 20 thousand dollars by more than 5K, and all of your generous donations will be going toward making another gorgeous flick.

View the "prologue" film below.




The Age of Bikes from Andrew Schrader on Vimeo.


--J/Metro

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011: A Year In (P)review

A very happy New Year to all you hipsters out there!  With 2010 in the rearview and 2011 stretching out before us, you may think I'm going to take a look back at the year that has just passed.  Well, you would be wrong (I'll be doing that shortly for my Blogiversary post).  Instead, I'm going to be taking a quick and shallow look at the genre films that haven't even been released yet.  Consider this a precognitive award ceremony.

Best Title
I made no real effort to look into the plotlines.  Like many red-blooded Americans, I judge a book by its cover--or, in this case, a movie by its title.  And these are some real award winners in my book!

Baby Zombies: Directed by Ethan Wiley
Bad Girls Burn In Hell: Directed by Mudd Miller
Chubby Killer: Directed by Reuben Rox
Cockneys Vs. Zombies:  Directed by Mathias Hoene
Dead Girls Don't Cry:  Directed by Mudd Miller
Stripperland: Directed by Sean Skelding
Ghost Shark 2 -- Urban Jaws: Directed by Johnny Hall & Andrew Todd
Super Death Kill: Directed by Dm Pelley

Most Curious
Bruce Vs. Frankenstein:  Bruce Campbell.  Versus.  Frankenstein.  Need more be said?
Chillerama:  A musical comedy horror film by Joe Lynch & Adam Green, they who brought you Hatchet and Wrong Turn 2, respectively.
Bach From The Dead:  The official synopsis:  Johann Bach teams up with the mysterious Josh after he is resurrected by a failing rap artist. Thus ensues a murderous rampage that can only be quenched by one thing: cop John Cannon's magnum. FINALLY, the much-anticipated team-up of classical music and hip-hop!

Most Anticipated
Fantomas:  Based on the comic serial about an amoral master of disguise and sadistic killer.  Directed by Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf), it should be in good hands.
John Dies At the End:  Based on the hit online-turned-hardcopy-novel by David Wong, directed by Don Coscarelli, and featuring Angus "The Tall Man" Scrimm.  This has badass written all over it.
Red State:  Kevin Smith is known for his comedies, which you either love or you hate.  I, for one, love them (save for the misfire Jersey Girl, which honestly wasn't a terrible film.  It just wasn't a Kevin Smith film, despite the fact that it was written and directed by Kevin Smith).  I watch his films, I read his books and comics, and I listen to his podcast.  I'll be in line for this quicker than Steve-Dave at a Stan Lee meet-and-greet.
Scream 4:  Yes, this franchise was supposed to be dead.  Yes, it was single-handedly responsible for a legion of self-aware hackneyed horror flicks that followed.  But the original was, at the time, original, and even if the law of diminishing returns caused the plotline of Part 3 to be thinner than Courtney Cox's frail frame, I'm still looking forward to revisiting the characters.  I'll be hoping for a miracle, expecting a train wreck.
Human Centipede 2:  The first film divided audiences into two camps.  I belong to the camp that thoroughly enjoyed it.  It wasn't ahead of its time, it was behind its time, and I still contend that Human Centipede belongs in an underground that no longer exists.
The Sandman:  Based on the intelligent DC Comics Vertigo comic title, I'm hoping that this translates to the screen successfully--but I'm afraid that it won't.  The series is a dark, moody, and brainy anthology title that finds its inspiration in history, mythology and folklore.  Depending on who is at the helm (and who is holding the purse strings), this could very well become an overly-stylized and dumbed-down CGI showcase, or a ploddingly-plotted snoozer with below-BBC standard production values.
The Big Bang:  No, not the Big Bang Theory (although, geek that I am, that is my favorite current sitcom).  This detective thriller is brought to us by the fine folks behind the twisted genre comedy Otis.  Definitely looking for this one.

So Bad It Might Be Good
Chihuanhas:  According to the official synopsis, A school/pack of vicious, cross-bred Chihuahua and Piranha are unleashed upon a pristine Mtn Lake and quickly consume summer campers before a team of misfits, led by the lake's ranger, evade and destroy the evil little critters.  Sounds like someone is trying to outdo the SyFy Channel at their own game.

The Obligatory Remakes
Child's Play:  I'm torn on this one.  I do love me some Chucky, even when it's really, really bad.  If they bring back Brad Douriff, I'm probably sold.
Faces of Death:  Seriously?  A remake of a falsified documentary?  Trash equals cash.  Just asky Maury Povich.
Little Shop of Horrors:  A remake of the remake of the broadway play, apparently, as it's also said to be a musical.
An American Werewolf in London
An American Werewolf in Paris
Don't Look In The Basement
Fright Night
Race With the Devil
The Blob
Scanners
The Asphyx
Videodrome
The Thing

The Obligatory Sequels
Blair Witch Project III: Blair Witch was always planned to be a trilogy, but the studios effectively killed that notion when they bastardized Part 2. If this flick is ever really going to be made (and I have my doubts), Part 3 should pretend that Part 2 never happened, and plan out a Part 4 to round out the trilogy. I learned math from Douglas Adams, by the way.
Evil Dead 4: Does Bruce Campbell still have the strength to portray Ash in this long-awaited (and probably never-going-to-happen) sequel? Lord only knows, but I'm sure as hell willing to find out.
The Strangers 2
Zombieland 2
Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires
Paranormal Activity 3

Most Unnecesarry Sequels
Final Destination 5:  Just where the hell is the final destination, and why haven't they arrived yet?
Halloween III:  Rob Zombie is giving someone else a chance to destroy the franchise this time.
Jeepers Creepers 3 -- Cathedral:  Hopefully this will be more like the original, and less of the shirtless underage male meat-fest that was Part 2.
Scary Movie 5:  These have never been scary.  And they haven't been funny for a while now, either.
Children of the Corn -- The Dweller:  I don't care if this is a sequel to the original franchise, or a sequel to the SyFy Channel reboot.  Crap is crap, no matter which animal it came from.
Hellraiser -- Revelations:  I love Hellraiser as much as the next guy, but right around the time they put Pinhead in space, the franchise really jumped the shark.  Sure, it was an intergalactic shark, but a shark nonetheless.

A Little Too Late For Anyone To Really Care
Strangeland II:  Disciple
Stigmata 2

Most Likely to be Accidentally Rented
Paranoid Activity 2
Paranormal Whacktivity

The Year of Stephen King
Cell:  I read this book when it first came out, and thought that it was written much more "cinematically" than anything King had written before (or since), almost as if it was written specifically to be turned into a movie.  I'm just surprised it took this long. 
Under the Dome:  Hopefully this will be a television mini-series, as a two-hour flick would not be nearly enough to contain a quarter of the events found within the pages.
Bag of Bones:  This creepy tale was King's take on the traditional ghost story, and to me it has always been the sister-book to his take on the traditional sci-fi story, Dreamcatcher.  Hopefully the film version of Bag of Bones fares better than the steaming pile that was Dreamcatcher.
From A Buick 8:  My least-favorite book by King doesn't inspire a lot of hope in the film version.
You Can't Kill Stephen King:  Not based on any King work, and the synopsis doesn't give much of anything away (A group of friends go on a vacation on the very lake in Maine where Stephen King lives), but it does feature a few characters with the last name of Bachman.  I'm a bit curious if nothing else.


Best Poster
'Nuff said.
--J/Metro

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