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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Babadook (2014) - Jennifer Kent

The best horror movie of 2014 is definitely Jennifer Kent's The Babadook. This movie is beyond creepy and crawly. It does such a great job of getting under your skin. It has a fantastically deep concept that is pulled off in a really well way. It is wonderfully acted and exceptionally written. I know it sounds like I am praising it a lot. But this is really a fantastic film in the genre. 

This movie has layers. It's a depressing tale about a broken, widowed single mother that is raising the worst child in the world. Her life is horrible and her time is completely taken up by this hellion. A mysterious children's book shows up one day and begins to terrorize their little family. This book warns about the coming of a figure known as Mister Babadook. 

A supernatural and psychological terror begins to unfold as we watch this mother deal with a possession. Deal with fighting this unknown antagonist and simultaneously taking care of her child. It shows the her deteriorated mental state as she falls deeper into her possession and we are shown this neglect. This doesn't just start to become scary because of this Mister Babadook character. You start to worry for the mother. Root for the mother. It's really quite a fantastic ride. 

Jennifer Kent has done a magnificent job here. It's really promising since this is her debut film. Essie Davis' performance was amazing. Award worthy even. Everything from top to bottom is great. It really can't get much better. Of course I recommend this one. It isn't a movie that you are going to forget. If you liked the Grudge... this is much better. 

Director: Jennifer Kent
Country: Australia

Did ya know...
Jennifer Kent and Essie Davis were mates in drama school. William Friedkin, the director of 'The Exorcist', said "I've never seen a more terrifying film than 'The Babadook'".

Tusk (2014) - Kevin Smith

Definitely the most original and outrageous horror movie of 2014 is Kevin Smith's Tusk. This film is the product of the Hollywood Babble-On Podcast that is hosted by Smith and Ralph Garmin. They had literally just tossed the idea around and then, poof! It was made into a movie starring Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, and Michael Parks. I will admit that when I started watching Tusk I expected to see something in the same vein as The Human Centipede. I expected to sit cringing through the whole feature. However, the end product was a bit disappointing and highly confusing.

This movie is about a podcaster, Wallace (Long), that travels to weird places and interviews weird people. He then, usually, returns to his best friend (Osment) and recants his entire trip while his friend laughs about it. The podcast is un-inspiringly called the Not See Party. Get it. Wallace heads to Canada to interview this Kill Bill kid that had cut his leg off. Only to find out that the kid had killed himself. Scrambling for a story he finds a letter from a crazy old man that is obsessed with walruses. Eventually the old man tricks Wallace and turns him into a half walrus half man. 

The horror starts to take a similar form. It starts to feel a bit Tom Six inspired and it nearly goes down the Human Centipede route but veers off into obscurity. Tusk starts to become a cluster-fudge about 1/3rd of the way into the film. It goes into areas that don't necessarily need to be explored. It feels like it's missing something. Johnny Depp makes an appearance but it feels like his cameo is quickly forgotten. It's like all of these characters are just elaborate frameworks of what real people should be. 

The movie isn't all bad. I love this nu-horror mad scientist genre. It is definitely a Body Horror film that does wonders for gore hounds and makes for an interesting tale. It's funny. I enjoy Justin Long's role. He was just the right kind of jackass. His back story was just... slapped together. It was interesting seeing Osment in his role. All in all, this movie is mediocre yet really original. I am curious to see where Kevin Smith can take this "Great North Trilogy"

Director: Kevin Smith
Country: USA
Style: Body Horror 

Did ya know...
 It was named the first runner-up to the Midnight Madness People's Choice Award.* Quentin Tarantino was offered the role of Guy Lapointe, but turned it down saying he dug the script and "couldn't wait to watch Michael Parks let loose his internal Kraken," but he had no interest in acting at the moment.* Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp's daughters play clerks. Clerks. (1994) launched Kevin Smith's career as a movie director and script writer.*

Thursday, December 25, 2014

You'll Find Out (1940) - David Butler

I am kicking off 1940 with You'll Find Out from 1940. A hilarious forgotten released to promote Kay Kyser. A popular big band leader from the 30's and 40's. The film is filled with comedy bits and witty charm that carry the plot along nicely. The production is exquisite. You'll Find Out is definitely a movie to check out. It's a shame it has been forgotten for so long.

The film is about Kay Kyser and his band after they are hired to play at a spooky mansion for a young heiress. The heiress had been invited to this mansion to celebrate her birthday party. She doesn't know who invited her. However, she is sure someone is trying to kill her. For some reason she still decides to go. The mansion is filled with creepy artifacts and crap lining the walls. It does a really good job of putting it's own spin on the Old Dark House motif. Not to mention it also has some very good cameos from Lugosi, Karloff, and Lorre.

The film is a parody/homage to the horror films of the 30's. The comedy is dated but laughable. It runs more like a Looney Toons short than a full length horror film. Actually with all the singing and musical numbers it runs more like a morbid Merrie Melodies. I guess with the world being in the shape that it was people didn't want to be scared anymore. They just wanted to be entertained. Well this movie does just that. It entertains like no other.

Director: David Butler
Country: USA
Style: Comedy

Did ya know...
Contrary to belief this movie was not a direct influence to Scooby Doo. It was beautifully filmed in 35mm and also featured a huge soundtrack. It was even nominated to win for best song. 

The Face at the Window (1939) - George King

Tod Slaughter is such an awesome character actor. He really puts everything he can into his pictures. I loved watching him in Sweeney Todd. This movie was no exception. George King is one of Britain's greatest story-tellers and delivers another keeper. The Face at the Window takes the Old Dark House motif and turns it on its head. 

The film takes place in 1880's France where someone has robbed the Brisson Bank in Paris. Chevalier Lucio del Gardo (Tod Slaughter) is the only one wealthy enough to help bail the bank out of trouble. Lucio del Gardo is horrible person that demands the love of the bank owners daughter. Not only is he horrible. He is a brutish creep. He stalks and harasses while seemingly getting away with it. Oh, I didn't even mention that he keeps some strange werewolf man thing as a tool in his repertoire for manipulation. 

The film is more of a melodramatic thriller than a horror movie. However, it deals with werewolves and has some pretty tame but scary scenes. Interestingly enough this movie even focuses a bit on Science Fiction. Not something I was expecting to see while watching a period drama. Though the movie didn't have your usual scary scenes. I found that del Gardo had the creepiest scenes. It was weird that he made a father instruct his daughter to proposition the Chevalier. His persistence is off putting and it matches his insanity. It may be muddled with age but the film is incredibly well balanced. 

George King is known for making something out of nothing. Though his films may be low-budget. They are creative and large. They always feel as if we are only watching a very small piece of a very grand landscape. The combination of King and Slaughter is a strike every single time. Do yourself a favor and educate yourself on this gem of the United Kingdom. It comes highly recommended. I suggest watching this movie back to back with Sweeny Todd

Director: George King
Country: United Kingdom

Did ya know...
This film is in the public domain. That means you can get a bag of popcorn and stream it below.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Human Monster (1939) - Walter Summers

Bela Lugosi turns in a fantastic performance. It is right on par with the exact same films that had made him famous like Dracula. My personal favorite being The Black Cat. Like the latter, this film suffered from poor circulation and lack of advertisement. Either that or the public wasn't interested in seeing Lugosi in anything else other than his famous bloodsucker. This film has a broad and well acted plot that was rich with detail. 

Lugosi has two sides in this picture. His well loved and compassionate side. The other is a strict, brutal lone shark that acts as a sinister villain to blind and handicapped people. He really brutalizes his victims. It's a macabre message to pay your bills. 

The film is slow moving and plagued by the usual setbacks from its time. Most of the nation wasn't really that concerned with horror at the time. But studios knew that they would always have an audience. This film is a prime example of that. It's sad because it's  such a gem. Definitely could have benefited from being released by a major studio.

Director: Walter Summers
Country: United Kingdom

Did ya know...

This film was the first official "Horror" movie of the United Kingdom. The film quotes Lewis Carrol's The Walrus and The Carpenter. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Man They Could Not Hang (1939) - Nick Grinde

The Man They Could Not Hang was actually a really solid horror movie. Boris Karloff is always fantastic and this movie is no different. Karloff takes his little role in this picture and makes it way bigger and broader than expected. The film deals with tried and true horror surroundings. The Old Dark House aesthetic is in full effect here complete with a slow, brooding terror. The film is also far, ahead of it's time. It actually showcases an artificial heart and heart transplant before that kind of thing was ever heard of. 

Dr. Henryk Savaard (Boris Karloff) has been working on unlocking the key to immortality. In his work, he's discovered how to bring a human back to life. His goal is to make it so that surgeons wouldn't have to be working against the clock during surgeries. A young man volunteers for the opportunity to be one of the first to be killed and brought back to life. However, Savaard is unable to finish his work. His secretary rats on him. Eventually leading to Savaard being thrown in jail. Where he is executed by hanging.

However, Dr. Savaard comes back from the dead. Using his methods and performed by his assistant. He invites everyone to his house that had convicted him. From the judge to the jury, no one is safe! Savaard traps these people in his house and tries to murder them all. It makes for a really interesting take on the Old Dark House recipe.

The acting is pretty normal for it's time. Fast paced with quick wits. Karloff is obviously the most fantastic performer here. Lorna Gray, Don Beddoe, and Ann Doran are the biggest names and they don't do much to stand out. Check out The Man They Could Not Hang if you love Karloff movies or your writing an essay on him. Although this movie has it's moments. It is mostly just regurgitation of the other movies coming out around the same time.

Director: Nick Grinde
Country: USA
Style: Dramatic Thriller

Did ya know...
Part of Son of Shock! a selection of movies that were aired on television in '58. The shooting lasted only two weeks. This film was re-released in 1947.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Gorilla (1939) - Allan Dwan

Horror comedies are always a tough nut to crack. They usually never do very well. It's really tough to mix two genres and do it well. It's even harder when one of those genres is horror. The Gorilla is an example of the two styles cancelling each-other out. It comes to the table with the usual brand of comedy that was running rampant at the time. Fast-paced, high-wit comedy that did really well... back then. The horror is even worse. It's has forced tension and a not-very-scary antagonist.

The all-star cast is completely lost in the crap. Lionel Atwill, Bela Lugosi, and Anita Louise are just a few names. Not to mention the b-list comedy troupe The Ritz Brothers, who were apparently mistreated by the production. They really exploited Lugosi too. Using his popularity as Dracula they believed that just merely his presence could illicit fear. It doesn't.

A very wealthy old man (Lionel Atwill) is threatened by a killer going by the name of "The Gorilla". He hires some detectives to crack the case. However, the detectives happen to be The Ritz Brothers. A jokester group that doesn't really give any confidence in getting the job done. Their usual witty humor is at times nerve-racking. But parts of their performance actually worked. Bela Lugosi plays the creepy butler and Anita Louise plays the cowardly maid. A combination we are all very familiar with.

I don't think I will ever understand why we thought Gorillas were scary. The whole notion just isn't very terrifying to me. If it sounds like something that might send shivers down your spine then this is probably right up your alley. It's no Abbott and Costello, believe that. You won't be cracking up probably just scratching your head.

Director: Allan Dwan
Country: USA
Style: Suspenseful Ape Thriller

Did ya know...

The Ritz Brothers had suffered the loss of their father shortly before filming this film. Production literally forced them into working so quickly. They were barely aloud to go to the funeral. This was the last Ritz Brothers film for 20th Century Fox. This movie is somehow based on a play. It must have been a boring play.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Saw (2004) - James Wan

Saw is a wildly successful independent horror movie from Australia's James Wan. The movie is very complex and very engaging. The film has a really heavy overarching feeling of dread and anguish that is only rivaled by movies like Se7en. Supported by a solid story line and equally solid script. The actors and characters are fantastic. Our main heroes played by Carey Elwes and Leigh Whannell do a great job of building the tension. It's really well executed. This is also the movie that started really celebrating the "twist" ending. It's pretty glorious.

This is the story of two men that wake-up finding themselves being imprisoned in a damp, dark basement. Both are shackled around an ankle and held on opposite sides of the room. Through their captivity, they start to remember and realize things. They learn that they are being held by a psychotic serial killer that "plays games" with his victims by putting them in killer obstacle courses of sorts. It's like a really dark version of Wipeout.

The killer is called Jigsaw, and to him nothing is just coincidence. He is playing the role of the anti-hero, only he has gone completely off the rails. As the film goes on we understand that Jigsaw is self-riotous and a bit of a sadist. He chooses his victims as they are all imperfect in his eyes. Each victim has a flaw, weather they be a drug dealer or doctor. Jigsaw finds it, then constructs an elaborate trap for them. He leaves them with instructions and the rest is up to them. It is always brutal and always carefully built. 

The film has tons of plot. Just heaps and heaps. We find out in later installments, that this movie was actually deeper even than you notice when you first watch it. However at that depth it's hard not to get lost. James Wan does a fantastic job of wrangling the twists but sometimes a stray plot hole will get away from him. I guess I am trying to say that this isn't a perfect movie but it's still a good one.

The scares are very physical and psychological. The actors propel the film forward with their primal fears being tested and pushed to the edge. The cringe moments and gore don't help either. If you are looking for something spooky for the kids, this movie wouldn't be that. However, if you have no problem watching a brutal, hardcore psychological thriller then this is right up your alley. 

The film has a surprising all-star cast. Carey Elwes (Princess Bride) & Leigh Whannell are fantastic. However, we also have Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon) and Ken Leung (Lost) both turn in equally decent performances. Glover is always grizzled and always "too old for this shit." I love it. Michael Emerson (Lost) is also in this and does a great job. 

Saw is a classic. It is an independent feature that fully delivers in it's quest to scare the viewer. Unfortunately, as is the case in this genre, the movie was followed by a descending line of sequels. Each one even worse than the last. However, this original feature is fantastic. If you haven't seen it then do what you can to. It's a great movie to watch on a date or horror movie marathon. It definitely gets the distinction of being the final movie of my 31 Movies of Halloween. Check it out.

Director: James Wan
Country: Australia
Style: Psychological Torture

Did ya know...

James Wan wanted the camera movements to reflect the two main characters emotions and personality. He filmed Dr. Gordon with steady controlled shots and Adam as hand-held shots to capture their emotions of the situation. All of the bathroom scenes were shot in chronological order in order to make the actors feel more what the characters were going through. The detectives track down a fire alarm to a warehouse in "Stygian Street". "Stygian" is the name of director James Wan's first film, which also stars "Saw" co-writer/actor Leigh Whannell.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Return of the Vampire (1944) - Lew Landers

The Return of the Vampire is one of the best horror movies of the 1940's. While the world was in turmoil, Bela Lugosi was making us forget for a moment and fear his iconic vampire character. The film has it's flaws but is survived mostly due to it's camp. This was supposed to be a sequel to Dracula but was made by a different studio. This forced them to use terrible names for the characters. Bela Lugosi is basically Dracula but they have to change his name to Dr. Armand Tesla. I don't know where they pulled that from but there it is. 

Doctor Tesla was a Romanian scientist that became enamored with vampires. It just so happened that he becomes a vampire and begins terrorizing London. That is until he is defeated when a stake is driven through his heart. He is entombed, again, in the cemetery. Twenty years later, the Nazi's begin bombing London it disturbs his grave. Two inept guards find the Vampire body with the stake still sticking out of it. So the guards remove the stake and Tesla awakes and keeps killing. He has the help of his werewolf slave to seek revenge for his death! 

This film has some great images and really good cinematography. It flows really well and makes for quite a good horror piece. Lugosi is iconic as the vampire character, even if it isn't Dracula. The sets were really well decorated. The graveyards that they feature are uber-creepy complete with low-hanging fog and askew grave markers. The make-up for Matt Willis, the Werewolf character, is fantastic! I really enjoyed how great the whole piece looked.

  • This is possibly the first vampire film to actually show the vampire dissolve/disintegrate on camera.
  • This appears to be the first horror film ever made in which both a vampire and a werewolf are characters, anticipating Universal's House of Frankenstein (1944) (released 11 months later) and House of Dracula (1945), as well as the the recent "Underworld" and "Twilight" movies.
  • Lugosi was paid $3,500 for his four weeks of work.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alien (1979) - Ridley Scott

Horror movies were, for the most part, secluded to earth and what we know. Never on such a large scale had horror been presented to us from another world. From another place, far, far off in the galaxy somewhere. Ridley Scott brought Alien to us in such a way that melds both horror and science fiction. He brings us an instant classic.

Alien is the best horror movie in the series. Aliens is full of action and Alien 3 is dramatic. Then the horrible sequels don't do it any justice. The original is near flawless and simply amazing. The character development, the story-line, and even the effects are all phenomenal. The acting is a little two dimensional at times but it's a non-issue. Yup, Alien is quite the picture.

A crew aboard the space vessel Nostromo is heading home when they are awaken early by an SOS message. It appears the message is coming from a nearby planet. When they investigate they end-up picking up a stowaway in the form of a vicious and horrible alien!

The cinematography is fantastic. Every shot is right on point. Scott really out did himself when he was working on this film. His work in the darkness really sold the picture. It was that use of darkness that kept that sinking feeling of dread hanging around. The atmosphere is bleak and echoes that message throughout the movie. The planet they are on is "dead" and really drives home the pointlessness of fighting the creature.

I recommend this movie to anyone that hasn't seen it yet. Do yourself a favor and see it as soon as possible. Get yourself in a dark room on a late night and really experience it. It was ahead of it's time in 1979 and holds true today. The tagline should be enough for you to see it. "In space, no one can hear you scream!" If the alien from this movie doesn't freak you out, then I don't know what will.

Director: Ridley Scott
Country: USA
Style: Sci-Fi
Did ya know: To get Jones the cat to react fearfully to the descending Alien, a German Shepherd was placed in front of him with a screen between the two, so the cat wouldn't see it at first, and came over. The screen was then suddenly removed to make Jones stop, and start hissing. The rumor that the cast, except for John Hurt, did not know what would happen during the chestburster scene is partly true. The scene had been explained for them, but they did not know specifics. For instance, Veronica Cartwright did not expect to be sprayed with blood. Ridley Scott cites three films as the shaping influences on his movie: Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) for their depiction of outer space, and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) (1974) for its treatment of horror.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) - Jeff Burr

Director Jeff Burr knew what kind of animal he was going to be working with when he started working on Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. The background tale is legend. The cannibalistic hermit family that lives out in the sticks of Texas is wanted for murdering a number of people and eating them. The content is what Burr needed to get down. He delivered one of the goriest, horrific films put to celluloid. Leatherface was so brutal that they had to cut a number of scenes just to gain an X rating. Apparently certain underlying story lines were cut as well. Had it not been for these cuts this might have been the best of the franchise. Unfortunately, the cuts exist and the substance took a huge blow from it.

A couple from Los Angeles (Kate Hodge and Bill Butler), that is driving to Florida, accidentally gets wrapped up in the affairs of the infamous Sawyer family. They are harassed by various family members like Leatherface, Tex (Viggo Mortensen), a strange little girl, and Tinker. It looks bad for the couple until Ken Foree shows up playing a crazy survivalist named Benny. He goes toe to toe with Leatherface and really turns the tables. It's pretty simple and not that terrible.

This does a good job of calling back to the first two films. Of course you get the Sawyer family. Leatherface is sporting a leg brace from his injury in the first movie. Grandpa returns and is dead and slightly charred from the grenade attack in the second movie. Then you even get a cameo from Caroline Williams (Stretch). Williams was apparently reprising her role briefly to secure her place in an upcoming film. That film just never came to light. It would have been cool to watch Stretch hunt down the rest of the Sawyer clan.

L:TMCIII is frustrating at times. It is a solid horror picture from beginning to end. However, it is cut to shit. The content is just not there. Once it gets going it is really good but it takes a long time to take off. The acting isn't the greatest. Ken Foree does the best job. His survivalist is truly a good addition.

I was personally frightened from watching this specific installment for years. I had remembered seeing it at Hollywood Video or Blockbuster back in the mid-nineties. I had no problem watching the other's in the series. However, I dragged my feet a bit on watching the original.

Did ya know: Director Jeff Burr wanted to shoot the film in Texas using 16 mm film just like the original, but New Line rejected the idea because they already built the house in Valencia, California.
The ranch where most of the filming was done is so close to Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park, that director 'Jeff Burr' swears you can hear screams from the Roller Coaster during some takes. Tom Savini and Peter Jackson were asked to direct but declined.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Dead Zone (1983) - David Cronenberg

The Dead Zone from 1983 is more of a dramatic thriller than an actual horror movie. However, the film does have a looming darkness that director David Cronenberg really brings to light, so to speak. It's not obvious, but subtleties are definitely Cronenberg's forte.

This is a adaptation of a Stephen King short story. What horror movie marathon would be complete without a King picture? The film follows Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) after he awakens from a five year coma. Smith learns that he can see someone's future if he touches them. Obviously, this is something that he couldn't do before. He is bombarded by news reporters to show an example. This bothers him, as you can really see the frustration. He just wants to be left alone but has the task of town-hero thrust upon him. To make matters worse, his girlfriend from before the accident is now married and living happily with some local political jagoff. He is literally just trying to live his life and stay out of peoples way. But they keep pulling him back in.

I don't really know how this movie was classified as a horror movie. It's not very scary and has almost no horrific attributes. Walken's character does see some pretty gruesome stuff. He witnesses murders, children drowning, and Nuclear war. However, none of it actually happens on camera so it's hard to get a sense of dread. However, maybe it is just the thin veil of darkness and dread that makes this picture scary? Perhaps. Perhaps the horror is delivered to us so subtly by Cronenberg that it makes it up to us. That being said, this is definitely the weakest of Cronenberg's work and the least terrifying of King's books. However, it's not bad. Other actors in the movie do a great job. Martin Sheen does an exceptional job of playing a dirty politician. Who knows maybe this role helped him later when he did the West Wing.

Christopher Walken is this film. From beginning to end he makes it. Stephen King had wanted Bill Murray to portray Johnny Smith but I cannot see it. The film is great as a dramatic terror and maybe that is how it should have been portrayed. As a horror film it just falls flat. The film is actually really pleasing and fun for those that don't want a big dose of horror. If you love Walken's work then this movie is a must see for you.

  • During the time Michael Kamen was composing the music for the film in London, he would play the score on the piano in his home. He received several complaints by his neighbors who asked, "Can you please stop playing that music? I can't sleep and it's giving my family nightmares."
  • David Cronenberg wanted to change the name of Christopher Walken's character: "I'd never name someone 'Johnny Smith'", he quipped, but in the end it was left as is. The book does specifically mention how it sounds like a fake name.
  • The gazebo where the murder took place was built for the film, and was later donated to the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, where it was filmed and is now a favorite spot for wedding photographs.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) - Philip Kaufman

This film is another interpretation of The Body Snatchers from 1955. A novel written by Jack Finney. And a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers from 1956. Though the story is expanded in Invasion '78 and it gives you a larger scope of just how far the pods must reach. It has a more graphic and intense look and feel. It has a much larger political view and explores that side of the film a lot more. You get the feeling that this outbreak is on a much larger scale. 

The film stars Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, and even Leonard Nimoy. As in the usual story line, pod-plants from outer space descend on Earth and make clones of all humans that come in contact with them. Then when that human sleeps their clones absorb (?) them and kill them. 

These clones are mostly emotionless. However, they look and sound just like everyone else. In fact the copy is just like you in every-way, except devoid of feeling. It's apparent that sometimes there are mistakes. My case in point is the freakish man-faced dog. Yeah. Man-faced dog. 

Of course in this version you get a longer look at where the pod-plants come from and how they attack. It gives a realistic look at what would happen when the pod's hit a city-level size area. You get the feeling that this epidemic is much bigger than just the couple of people that are trying to survive. From the first frame to the last, something is just completely off. People in the background are infected and you see them everywhere. Just look for all the extras that are staring at your main-leads. 

The cinematography is great for this feature. It's realistic and gritty look at seventies life in San Francisco is done really well and makes for uneasy shots. That paired with the cast make for a pretty neat little feature. 

  • Donald Sutherland insisted on performing his own stunts in the film's climax. His scenes at the pod factory were filmed without harnesses or nets. In the shot of a fireball erupting from the factory, Sutherland barely missed it. However, an extra missed his cue and was seriously injured from the explosion.
  • The leather half-glove that Leonard Nimoy's character wears was deliberately used for the sole purpose of making the character more distinctive and recognizable. Nimoy got the idea from a friend who wore it to cover a burn on his hand.
  • At the beginning of the film, as the alien spores rain down on earth, you see them presumably landing on the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco - the headquarters of what was then the parent company of United Artists, which produced the film

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Friday the 13th (1980) - Sean Cunningham

I hadn't seen the original Friday the 13th until I turned 19 in 2002. I hadn't stayed away from it, I just never came across it. However, I had seen other films in the franchise. My favorite then, and still now, is Friday the 13th: Part VI Jason Lives. When I finally watched the original movie I had already known about the twist with the killer being Pamela Voorhees. It wasn't very secret. But the movie still impressed me. 

The film is about Camp Crystal Lake, which is nicknamed Camp Blood after someone went crazy in 1958 and killed two counselors. Then a series of unexplained events occur that make the residents condemn the area. However, in 1979 the camp is being re-opened much to the chagrin of the local townsfolk.

The cast is mediocre in the grand scope. However, this cast fits this picture perfectly. Adrienne King and Betsy Palmer are your main characters. Both being the focus of the film. King becomes our young heroine that takes the natural leadership role. Palmer stars as Mrs. Vorhees, a former employee of the Camp that had a son who drowned in the lake a year before those councilors were killed in '58.

Of course the movie has Kevin Bacon in a minor role. Although, his death scene is one of the most impressive of the whole film. He plays another horny councilor that is dispatched fairly quickly. The other performances are passable. They do their job and all serve their purpose. The acting definitely is a product of it's era.

You can tell that the filming process is based on a lot of different horror movies from around that time. Sean Cunningham has stated that he used films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre for inspiration while both films were made on a very small budget. This original feature is a very good movie on it's own. However, it is a completely different type of movie when compared to it's sequels.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone that loves film. If you want to watch a historic piece of cinema that can still churn a scare or two, then this is right up your alley. If your looking for Jason then keep on looking. He isn't in this movie. Although I had always thought that he was helping with the murders in the film. Some of them were just too crazy for a lady like Betsy Palmer to pull off.

Director: Sean Cunningham
Country: USA
Style: Slasher

Did ya know...

Betsy Palmer took the role of Pam Voorhees because she needed a new car. She thought that the script was a "Piece of Shit". Composer Harry Manfredini said that he tried to actually make Jason's theme sound like Kill, Kill, Kill; Mom, Mom, Mom. Tom Savini was one of the first crew members to sign on. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Frighteners (1995) - Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson of Dead Alive and The Lord of the Rings fame leads us into another realm of horror created in the far off land of New Zealand. This kiwi cinema-savant has the ability to create some of the most amazing fictional worlds. This is a trait only a few directors have. It really enhances the film viewing experience by getting you to go along with the story. It fools you into believing that this place exists. It doesn't hurt that he is given some big names to work with including; Michael J. Fox, Jeffery Combs, Jake Busey, John Astin, Dee Wallace, and so many more.

The effects are really what set this movie aside from all of the others. Peter Jackson is the epitome of the title, director. He knows exactly what he wants to see on screen and makes it happen. Much like Melies and Krauss of the early days. Jackson is a master magician of the silver screen. 

The Frighteners is a delightful and original feature about Frank Banister, a schlubby ghost whisperer who uses his "power" for financial gain. The ghosts are all more like average joes that have been caught and trapped in limbo. Unseen by anyone except for Banister, these spirits act just like you or me. Conflict arises when Frank Banister notices a series of numbers etched onto a few peoples heads. He starts investigating and finds himself on the trail of an executed serial killer that isnt done killing from beyond the grave. 

The movie gives you comedy, action, adventure, and even a smidge of mystery. It keeps you engaged through the entire viewing. The film has a small amount of blood and gore. It is actually pretty tame. It's not the scariest but it definitely makes its mark and serves as a great movie to watch during the Halloween season.

I was surprised to see that the film was actually filmed in New Zealand. I always assumed that it was Peter Jackson's first REAL feature for the states. The movie is much more flushed out. It feels bigger than any of his other features until that point. I like that he keeps his movies at home. Why change what works. Now, hopefully, we can get Jackson and Del Toro to team up on a Lovecraftian film.

Director: Peter Jackson

Country: New Zealand

Style: Comedy Adventure

Did ya know...

It was during this film that Michael J. Fox had made the decision to retire from movies. He focused on the small screen after this picture landing a role in the new sitcom Spin City. No other actor could have been considered for the role of Frank Banister other than Fox. Danny Elfman signed on to do the soundtrack before he even knew what the movie was about.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hostel (2005) - Eli Roth

Eli Roth brings us one hell of a masterpiece in horror cinema. Everything about this movie from the dark comedy to the intense gore expertly executed. This fine addition to my ever growing list of scary movies is not just great. It's important. Hostel came at a time when I had almost lost faith in horror films. It restored my faith and inspired me to keep believing that I can keep getting scared.

With the backing of Quentin Tarantino and the direction of Eli Roth, you know your in for an entertaining treat. Top notch writing and acting don't hurt it either. If you wanted a horror movie with kid's gloves on then keep on looking. This movie might just be too much for you. 

A couple of Americans vacationing in Europe find themselves visiting Slovakia, for some reason, and end up in a creepy town with a disturbing secret. An elite group of rich people hunt visitors for sport. Not really hunt. More like tie down and torture. 

The movie takes pieces of films like The Wicker Man and gross-out slasher pictures to create this interesting picture that keeps you entertained from beginning to end. Upon watching this movie at the theater I noticed some theater goers shielding their eyes and even dry heaving during scenes of intense gore. Keep your eye out for one in-particular. 

The moment I noticed that this movie was different thank other films was when our hero gets his vengeance. People in the theater actually got up and cheered! They clapped and laughed when one of our antagonists got their comeuppances. It was amazing. I highly recommend this movie to most anyone that wants to get into horror. It will test the limits of your tolerance and set a benchmark for horror flicks.

Director: Eli Roth
Country: USA

Did ya know...
After Josh (Derek Richardson) has his Achilles' tendon sliced, much of his screaming is real. While writhing in pain, the actor accidentally pulled the chair up and brought it down on his foot, nearly splitting his toe in half. When Paxton is in the slaughterhouse with the German, he delivers a speech in German. He is saying, "If you kill me, it'll destroy your life. Every time you close your eyes, you'll see me. I'll be in your nightmares every night, your whole life. I will ruin it." Over 150 gallons of blood were used in the making of the movie, nearly three times the amount used on Eli Roth's first film Cabin Fever (2002).

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bad Milo! (2013) - Jacob Vaughn

Bad Milo is a really decent horror/comedy from Jacob Vaughn that doesn't pull punches when it comes to shit jokes. That's what this is. One big long shit joke that's executed well and has definite cult appeal. The cast is a mediocre group of comedians from various prime time television programs. Ken Marino (Children's Hospital and Party Down), Gillian Jacobs (Community), Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld and Venture Bros.), Stephen Root (King of the Hill and Office Space), and Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley and Portlandia) plus a good deal of other cameos that make the viewer feel at home.

This movie has it's really hilarious moments and it's really gross moments. It is definitely something different. Marino plays Duncan, a really stressed out guy that can't find a way to relax. He starts to suffer from really excruciating stomach pains associated with his uber-stress. This summons a demon that comes out of his butt and viciously murders various people throughout the movie.

One of the things that I really appreciated with this movie was that the film used actual puppetry. However, it had unnecessary CGI blood effects. So I don't really know where to land on that one. Why use CGI blood? Just clean up the mess you make. I don't get it. Anyway, this film is definitely a comedy first with a splattering of horror to make you cringe. I mean how exactly do you have a movie about an ass demon without some gore?

This movie was really good. I had a good time watching it and everyone else seemed to like it too. On that note, I will recommend this movie to anyone looking for an odd date movie or even just a laugh. You will definitely enjoy it.

Director: Jacob Vaughn
Country: USA
Style: Demonic Vulgar Comedy

Did ya know...
Milo and Ralph were mainly controlled by two puppeteers. One handled the body and the other handled the expressive face. See! CGI Sucks!

Production: New Artists Alliance, Floren Shieh Productions, Duplass Brothers Productions 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tourist Trap (1979) - David Schmoeller

Tourist Trap is really an amazing find for a couple of reasons. One, it's completely obscure and unheard of. Yeah, a couple of people might reference it here and there but it's mostly forgotten about. Some say that this movie having a PG rating really hurt it. It was easily overlooked. Two, it's scary as hell. I was genuinely scared when I watched the opening scene. It was really impressive. Stephen King is a fan of the opening scene as well.

The first thing you notice is that the music, composed by Pino Donaggio, is really bizarre and full of slide-whistles and wood blocks being knocked together. It sounded like the opening theme to a Saturday morning cartoon. You really don't expect to see a horror flick. It reminds me of something that the Italian horror masters would do. In fact the films aesthetic reminds me of Suspiria. It works. This movie is intense, crazy, and beautiful.

A group of teenagers decide to find their way through a strange private road when their vehicle breaks down. They look for help near an old, strange, roadside attraction off of an overgrown private road. The attraction has been long forgotten as the grounds are nearly abandoned. They come across an old man that lives in a museum on the property. He is pretty strange and really eager to help.

The group learns about a weird figure named Davey that lives in a big house on the property. The old man warns them about going into the house and nearly threatens them. You get the feeling that something creepy is going down. Of course the teenagers in the movie can't keep themselves from exploring the abandoned grounds. Then the weird stuff starts happening.

This movie has elements of House of Wax, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Psycho built right in. It's no wonder that this movie was forgotten. These movies were a dime a dozen during this era of horror. It doesn't have very much gore, if any. And it tends to be pretty light in that field. However, that doesn't take away from how terrifying it is. The effects are a bit over the top but they serve this movie quite well. The mannequins and wax figures are disturbing and terrifying.

I highly recommend this movie to those that really want to show-off and surprise their friends with something way off the grid. Although it comes with a PG rating, I would advise your kids to keep away from this. It will definitely give them nightmares and keep them screaming for weeks.

The script originally called for nudity, but Schmoeller said he was too bashful and embarrassed to bring it up with Tanya Roberts and the other actresses during casting. When they got to the lake scene, he finally asked them if they'd be willing. The collective answer was no. ( Director David Schmoeller was startled when the film received a PG rating despite its disturbing subject matter. Schmoeller stated in an interview with that he felt the film would have been more commercially successful had it received an R rating. (

Monday, October 20, 2014

They Live! (1988) - John Carpenter

What do you get when you mix Rowdy Roddy Piper, John Carpenter, Guns, and general badassery? Why you get one of the most iconic movies of the nineteen eighties. In the early nineties every kid on my block knew this movie and loved it. They Live is Carpenters response to the Reganomics of the era. The movie doesn't hide it's political undertones either. It shoves them right in your face. Delivered by Roddy Piper and Keith David. The film has been cited as inspiration for a number of actors and artists including contemporary street-artist Shepard Fairey who famously used the films Obey theme in his work. 

Roddy Piper plays a down-on-his-luck drifter that gets mixed up in one of the biggest cover-ups of all time. Aliens have infiltrated Earth and have been subconsciously pushing humans to do their will through subliminal messaging. Once Piper finds a pair of glasses that allow him to see through the aliens ruse, all hell breaks loose. 

The film isn't very frightening but has it's terrifying moments. It works really well as a paranoia builder and leaves you asking questions. I qualify horror movies as a film that leaves you with a unsettling feeling in your stomach. This flick does just that. 

The movie starts out really slowly and you might even think about turning it off. However, at the midway point this movie really kicks into high gear. Once Piper finds the alien-finding sunglasses he starts blowing people away left and right. It has some really amazing one-liners and rewards you for hanging on. It's awesome. 

The special effects in the movie are perfect for it's time. Bloody, rough, and brutal. When the Hot Rod starts his long and angry road to exterminating the aliens you get some very minimal sequences that give you a good look at what the aliens are. It isn't until the end of the film that you get to see them in all their glory. Their nasty and ugly glory. 

In short, They Live may be one of the greatest Action-Thrillers of all time. Even though it may be short on the horror it still sticks with you and has some really amazing suspense. I reccomend this movie to anyone at anytime. It's just that damn good. 

  • The big fight sequence was designed, rehearsed and choreographed in the back-yard of director John Carpenter's production office. The fight between Nada (Roddy Piper) and Frank (Keith David) was only supposed to last twenty seconds, but Piper and David decided to fight it out for real, only faking the hits to the face and groin. They rehearsed the fight for three weeks. Carpenter was so impressed he kept the five minutes and twenty seconds scene intact.
  • John Carpenter wanted a truly rugged individual to play Nada. He cast wrestler Roddy Piper in the lead role after seeing him in WrestleMania III (1987). Carpenter remembered Keith David's performance in The Thing (1982) and wrote the role of Frank specifically for the actor.
  • The film is partially shot in black-and-white which involved only the scenes and sequences where the aliens were visible to the audience when characters are wearing the sunglasses for most of the film. But this visual aesthetic ceases towards the end of the picture whereupon the aliens become visible in color for the film's final act.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dr. Terrors House of Horrors (1965) - Freddy Francis

Dr. Terror's House of Horrors is a fantastic anthology horror movie that explores some pretty unnerving and spooky tales. There is a star studded cast with a very Tales from the Crypt meets Hammer horror feel. This was actually made in a series of horror films from Amicus Productions.

Starring some really big names. The film has Peter Crushing as our antagonist. A traveling gypsy man that reads deathly tarot cards to unsuspecting travelers. This particular group of travelers is made up of Christopher Lee, Neil McCallum, Alan Freeman, Roy Castle, and Donald Sutherland.

The film has some really psychadellic inspired stories. Mostly the Voodoo installment. Roy Castle plays a jazz musician that steals a Voodoo chant for his own profit as he turns it into a really awesome jazz groove. This scene even features some quality Jazz flute.
Other installments that I enjoyed involved Alan Freeman battling mother nature and some vicious creeping vines. The other stars Christopher Lee as a snotty art critic that pisses off the wrong artists hand. Literally.
The movie uses good old suspense as an engine and that really propels this movie forward. It's interesting and has really good music. The timing isn't bad and each story brought it's own thing. As long as I am doing this project I don't think anthology horror movies will ever cease to entertain me.

Director: Freddy Francis
Country: United Kingdom

Did ya know...
Peter Crushing's make up was made to make him look like John Barrymore from Svengali. Tubby Hayes was booked to write the score but did not write anything and so was replaced by Elisabeth Lutyens. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tremors (1990) - Ron Underwood

Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward star in this early 90's drive-in masterpiece. When I was seven my dad and I went to the drive in movies to see this and I couldn't have been happier. It was great. I remember being scared and hiding my eyes during a scene when a Graboid (that's what the antagonists are called) pulled a station wagon underground. I don't know why that one scared me but it did. I caught this movie on AMC this week and was not disappointed. 

A small desert town falls victim to giant earth dwelling worms that terrorize anything that touches the ground. It's like that game you played when you were a kid. Ground is lava. A Seismologist is researching in the area and figures that the worms are tracking humans based on the sounds of the vibrations they make on the ground. This means everyone has to stay quiet and find higher ground. Now, Bacon, Ward, and the Seismologist have to try to find a way to keep this little town safe. While figuring out just what is going on. 

The worms or Graboids, as they would come to be called, are actually really neat. The effects creator Tom Woodruff Jr. did a fantastic job with the creatures. He went with a practical design instead of something more fantastical or ridiculous. Woodruff had worked on Terminator and Aliens before this. This was a huge factor in the movie and it worked out really well. 

This flick is a classic b-movie that pays homage to the giant-monster movies of the 1950's. It does a great job of mixing comedy, adventure, and a bit of horror. Plus it's a Kevin Bacon movie so it's always good to have knowledge of it in case a spontaneous game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon breaks out.  

I recommend this movie to anyone that hasn't seen it. It's fairly family friendly and acts as a good introduction to 90's horror comedy. The sequels that followed weren't the best but they served their purpose. This is definitely the best feature of the lot. 

  • S.S. Wilson said that he got the idea for the film while he was working for the US Navy in the California desert. While resting on a rock, he imagined what it might be like if something underground kept him from getting off the rock.
  • Although Tremors (1990) was not a big hit during its theatrical run, the film became a runaway smash in the home video market, and ultimately tripled its original box office gross with VHS sales and rentals.
  • For the scene in which Rhonda had to get out of her pants to escape the Graboid about to eat her, actress Finn Carter intentionally didn't rehearse the scene. That way the response she gives to having to depants in front of Kevin Bacon in less than 5 seconds was authentic.