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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.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Prophecy (1979) - John Frankenheimer

John Frankenheimer wanted to make a difference with this picture. He didn't want this to go down as just any other horror movie. Prophecy from '79 is a PG rated piece highlighting the horrors of logging and pollution. However, it couldn't stay far from it's horror movie roots.

Released during the infamous "Summer of Fear" This movie had some really stiff competition. Alien, Amityville Horror, Phantasm, Driller Killer, were all playing at the time. It was a great time to be a fan. That really shines through in all of those movies. Each had a cheapness that was ironic and now, nostalgic.

The film stars Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Armand Assante, and Richard Dysart trying to survive, deep in the woods, against a vicious titanic mutated bear. Disfigured and transformed by the chemicals from a near-by logging operation.

The story focuses on the struggle between a local native-american tribe and this evil corporate logging camp. Doctor Robert Verne shows up and starts investigating strange brutal murders. He goes to bat on a number of occasions for the tribe and cites numerous eco-violations that the logging company has made.

Meanwhile, that crazy bear is still running around killing people. In pretty ridiculous fashion I might add. These are the scenes that really make this movie shine. Frankenheimer did a great job of softening the gore but making it passable. It's actually pretty great. The cheapness of it all really drives the whole thing home. It makes for an awesome cult film and will hold a special place with me. While not amazing. I definitely recommend it!

  • Filmed in British Columbia in 1978, this movie marked the beginning of the "Hollywood North", the major start to the development of a massive film production business in Vancouver and other parts of the province of British Columbia, in Canada. Since then hundreds of "American" movies have been filmed in the Canadian province.
  • According to the Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Review, "David Seltzer has taken the basics of Prophecy (1979) from a real-life apocalypse - the environmental disaster in the Japanese city of Minimata, which came to light in 1958 where it was discovered that mercury waste being dumped into a nearby river from a chemical plant had caused severe mutations and neurological degenerations among the locals. The effects of this consisted of loss of muscular control, vision and hearing, followed eventually by insanity and paralysis".
  • Fourth of four consecutive horror movies for actor Robert Foxworth whose previous three features had been Death Moon (1978), Damien: Omen II (1978) and Ants (1977).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Djinn (2013) - Tobe Hooper

The Middle East doesn't have that many irons in the fire when it comes to horror movies. That's why I really like Djinn. It isn't a fantastic horror movie but it's interesting and well made. The United Arab Emirates funded this movie being helmed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre creator Tobe Hooper. He's a great choice. Hooper's experience really draws the fear of each horror movie he makes and this movie is no different.

Salama and Khalid are a young Emirati couple who move back home from America after the accidental death of their infant child. They move into a large high rise in Ras al-Khaimah and start their lives together. Something just doesn't sit right with Salama. The atmosphere and aura surrounding Ras al-Khaimah is really creepy. A dense fog has settled and looks to be staying. Salama begins to hear and see things. That's when the fun begins.

Djinn gives a great, realistic look at the ancient creatures. It takes from the writings in the Qur'an that mention the Djinn as a separate race from the humans. Us westerners know them a Genies. Though, this movie doesn't really have anything to do with wishes. From what I can gather they represent Demons and beings from the underworld that love to terrify and kill humans.

I recommend this movie to those looking for something different. Tobe Hooper is a great slasher director and this marks a rare occasion when he's trying to be subtle. There are a few snags. My biggest gripe is with their annoying neighbor. The movie has a solid story-line and makes for a good feature. Check it out.In Turkey the movie is known as Cin

The film is the first supernatural thriller film in both English and Arabic languages.
Djinn had a budget of $5 Million

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

FeardotCom (2002) - William Malone

A generic and dark tale of supernatural murder involving the internet. Specifically a website called or Feardotcom. When a user browses this torture snuff website they are given 48 hours to live. The movie is really dark and seems to have a grainy or grungy filter put over the lens. Some parts are hard to follow and I didn't really enjoy their choice of lead actress. Natascha McElhone is pretty boring. It just feels like they didn't try.

In short, this movie is typical of a early 2000's horror film. From the Bush era, when things were all about pounding energy drinks and bad-mouthing arab nations. Nu-Metal pounded the airwaves and Nu-Horror reigned supreme at the box-office. Mostly because people didn't have much of anything else to watch. Horror in Hollywood was stuck in a funk of copying any J-Horror venture they could find. Movies like The Eye, Black Water, Darkness Falls, The Ring, The Grudge, and The Messengers are all examples of terrible horror flicks released during this time. Most of those were only rated PG-13! PG-13! What a waste of time! 

This movie is no exception. Sure it's rated R, but it might have just as well been rated PG-13. It was too lame to be scary and too dark to see anything. The storyline is drab and the acting is flat. This is literally garbage. If this movie had never existed, then the world would have kept right on spinning. Uninspired, regurgitated horror movies like this are a dime a dozen. Most times they are fun to pick up for a night of ironic jokes and laughter with friends. This movie wouldn't do that for you. 

It does, however, have some cool acting cameos like Udo Kier and Jeffery Combs. It even stars a horror child actor Stephen Dorff. They just turn in unmemorable performances. Our main villain (?) played by Stephen Rea fails to drive any fear home as his character is exposed too much. You just want the whole thing to end. It's not a pretty site. 

  • is/was the address of the movie's official Web site.
  • In pre-production the website featured in the film was called, despite the producers not owning that website in real-life. They had hoped to buy the domain name from its owners at the time, but were told that it was not for sale at any price, leading to the website's name in the film being changed to
  • The name "Dr. Gogol" is written on the subway wall in the first scene. This is a reference to Mad Love (1935), another film about a mad surgeon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cabin in the Woods (2012) - Drew Goddard

The teen horror movie aesthetic is fully explained in this satire of all horror films. Boasting some huge names that actually pull their weight makes for a really great watch and fun horror movie to delight just about anyone. The film started with a 30 million dollar budget and had Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard attached. Both are hugely talented. Whedon comes off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Goddard comes off of Lost and Cloverfield. Not exactly lightweights. 

The film takes slasher horror in a whole new direction. While it adds a surprising and very pleasing dark humor aspect to the movie, it doesn't skimp on the things that matter. The movie still elicits a fear. It has grizzly imagery and puts characters that you can relate with in a frightening situation. It's bloody and gory. It has action and a slight sense of adventure. Cabin in the Woods is one of the rare horror movies that utilize the full spectrum of theater and delivers well. 

In the usual fare, a group of young adult/late-teen's are spending the weekend at a Cabin in the Woods. This isn't just a normal run-of-the-mill type Cabin either. Other than being infested with creepies and crawlies. Murderers and psychotic slashers. This cabin hides a secret. A secret that might change the way things work in horror movies forever! 

It behooves me not to divulge anything about this movie to those that hasn't seen it yet. Just know that if you love horror movies and you are a fan of the macabre. Then this movie is going to be right up your alley. It delves deep into this style of horror film and explains all that it can. Check it out and you will not be sad. 

Director: Drew Goddard
Country: USA
Did ya know: The movie's opening was a deliberate attempt by filmmakers Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon to confuse the audience and make them think they walked in to see the wrong movie. During the lake scene, the only student not to jump into the lake is Marty, who remains fully clothed on the dock. This was partially due to Fran Kranz noticeably being in as good if not better shape than the other male students. In the commentary for the film, the writers joke that he was "ripped like muscular Jesus" and assert that if Marty were shown being that fit it would ruin the character. This is partly also why Marty wears baggier clothes than the other students. The thermal coffee mug/bong was a fully functional mug and bong as portrayed in the film, the prototype of which cost $5000 to make.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Slugs (1987) - Juan Piquer Simón

Skeez and sleaze. These Roger Corman influenced pieces are a dime a dozen in the eighties. I love it. These VHS specials have a storytelling would be right at home during a fifties drive-in. However, they get the perk of being made in the eighties. That means more gore and explicit activity. Quite handy to have around for a quick horror movie-fest or random pizza date night flick. It's gonna be fun.

Slugs is the unbelievable tale of Mike Brady, the worst government employee of all time versus a slew of man eating, brain burrowing slugs with teeth! These slugs attack en masse and literally swarm over their victims tearing them to shreds. Mike Brady utilizes the full extent of his position as Health Inspector and has made it his personal task to eradicate these creatures. Hilarity ensues.

Horrible acting, writing, and effects plague the film from the beginning. However, it's all part of the charm. When it's taken ironically it goes down so well. Actors stumble over lines and barely make it believable. The gore and sleaze make for some really quality cheap exploitation. It has buckets of blood for those of you that love that kind of thing.

A movie of this caliber gets my highest recommendation. It's not an amazing picture but it's fun. If you find a copy at your local Goodwill then please pick it up. It's not going to disappoint.

It was banned in the Australian state of Queensland until the early-'90s when the Queensland Censorship Board was disbanded.
Several scenes supposedly occurring in the same location were obviously shot on different sets. This is because the shots involving American actors were shot in the USA, whereas the shots involving Spanish actors were shot in Spain.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Galaxy of Terror (1981) - Bruce D. Clark

I had never heard about this until I came across it on Netflix. I saw that Sid Haig was in it and couldn't wait to check it out and see what it had to offer. However, it didn't offer very much. Galaxy of Terror is fun movie to watch ironically. Its an odd mix of Alien and Event Horizon. The film takes place on a strange planet where your worst fear can come to life! Each member of the crew aboard the Quest is in fight for their life! 

Fear is the driving force behind this eighties b-movie. Every member of the crew that dies has one thing in common. The deaths are all based on the person's fear. This makes for some pretty neat kills, albeit weird and strange. But that is what I love about these movies. Even though this movie was trash, it had some really creative death scenes and with Roger Corman behind it, there was some really decent sleeze. Case in point is the maggot rape scene. Just let that sink in for a bit. The movie is chock full of cheesy effects and schlock. Girls, Guts, and Ghosts are what you should be expecting when your going into this. Just try not to judge them so harshly. 

This movie has great timing and a pretty decent cast. Robert Englund, Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Taaffe O'Connell, Zalman King, Grace Zabriskie, and of course Sid Haig. The problem is with the story and practicality. I know as well as anyone that you have to kind of throw those two things out the window. However, it's really hard in this case. 

This movie has way too many holes. It feels like it left a ton of stuff out. Characters were badly introduced or explained and because of that they never really rounded out. The story starts to lag towards the end. However, luckily it only has an 88 minute run time. 

Director: Bruce D. Clark
Country: USA
Style: Sci-Fi Horror

Did ya know... 

Kizer reveals that the originally filmed version of the “Dameia” (O’Connell) character’s “kill” scene changed significantly as the movie was made. The initial writing of the scene had the maggot only stripping and consuming a topless Dameia, but producer Roger Corman had promised financial backers of the movie a sex scene involving O’Connell, so he merged the two ideas together. His re-write of the scene had Dameia reacting in terror when confronting the 12-foot long creature, an “id monster” created from her own mind complete with tentacles, but having the terror give way to forced sexual arousal as the monster strips and rapes her. The re-written scene included full nudity and far more explicit sexual content, including simulated sexual intercourse, and ended with Dameia moaning provocatively, covered in excreted slime, and being driven to an orgasm so intense it kills her. 

Movie was originally rated X by the MPAA. Following scenes were cut for R rating; Evisceration and a protracted shot of a scalped corpse with part of its skull missing, several frames from infamous worm rape scene showing giant worm's thrusting movements and victim's face in ecstasy, sounds of bones breaking were also removed from scene in which another female character gets crushed by living wires. Original X rated version of the movie is confirmed to be lost and destroyed. 

Sid Haig didn't think the dialogue in the script matched the character of Quuhod, so he asked Roger Corman if he could play Quuhod as a near mute instead. Corman agreed and let Haig portray Quuhod with almost no dialogue. Haig only says a single line in the whole movie.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Sacrement (2013) - Ti West

The Sacrament was really interesting. I am a big fan of House of the Devil and The Innkeepers. From film director Ti West. This double team of West and fear film extraordinaire, Eli Roth seemed too good to be true and perhaps it was. While The Sacrament is truly a tale of a terrible tragedy it fails to actually deliver. 

Three film-makers from VICE document their attempt to free one of the members sisters from a strange religious cult. The cult is led by a manipulative con-artist that brainwashes his "family" they all call him Father. The cult consists of hundreds of people that have started a small community called Eden Parish. These reporters have a really strange experience. 

Eli Roth had restored my faith in horror films when he created the Hostle series. I had viewed most modern horror movies as being too family friendly and handled with kids gloves. When I attended a screening of Hostle the crowd in the theater was erupting with emotion. It was a beautiful thing. 

Obviously, I was not the only mind reshaped by Roth's vision of a return to quality horror. Ti West had come out of nowhere with The House of the Devil it was such an amazing sleeper hit and nailed it with the grittiness and rawness that we, as viewers, are expecting. His coy storytelling and dark sense of humor are also key staples in a Ti West picture. The Innkeepers showed that. 

This movie doesn't show that at all. There are sprinkles of the gore mastery of Roth and dark humor of West. However, overall there isn't much going on. The movie feels like it was a watered down interpretation of Kevin Smith's Red State mixed with the story of the Jonestown Massacre. The camera is constantly moving away from the action just as things are about to happen. People are constantly dying off camera. It's infuriating. They cover it up by making this a quasi-found footage film. 

I appreciate what the director and producer were going for. However, I don't think it came out the way that they wanted. The constant presence of titles on the screen are jarring and it really takes you out of the film. Instead of letting you make up your own mind about what was going on. The movie felt the need to tell you what was happening by printing it on the screen. My case in point is the "clean-up crew" scene. 

This isn't a horrible film. This movie just feels like it needs a few tweaks. It wasn't obvious and it built a great deal of tension decently. I really enjoyed a few of the actors. However, they felt mostly very flat and bland.

It is worth checking out if you want to see a Jonestown Murder movie. In that way this movie is very accurate. If you are hoping for something scary that wont let you sleep at night then I would advise you to keep looking.

Director: Ti West

Country: USA

Did ya know...

Two retired members of the Harlem Globetrotters played background roles in this movie.
According to the film commentary, in the originally conceived ending, the helicopter pilot was not shot. Once the helicopter got to altitude, the pilot proclaimed "We must follow Father's orders" and crashed the helicopter, killing everyone on board. Eli Roth describes this movie as "Ti West's first mainstream film."

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth (1992) - Anthony Hickox

This is an attempt at creating a successful franchise. It's not an easy thing to do and Anthony Hickox just couldn't pull it off. Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth moves in the wrong direction from the first frame. It really slathers the formerly fantastic series in American schlock movie cliches. It's just a bomb. Clive Barker isn't involved in this picture either. He knew early to let it go. 

This movie loosely picks up where Hellraiser 2 left off. Pinhead has been trapped inside the Pillar of Death. A douche named J.P. Monroe buys the Pillar and summons the Master of Pain and Pleasures to the "real world". Hilarity ensues when Pinhead slaps together a rag-tag group of Cenobites to claim Hell on Earth. Most of the film takes place in a lame rock club called the Boiler Room. Apparently they spent a great deal of money on the club even through they were already filming in a pre-existing night club. 

It feels less and less like an actual Hellraiser movie the further it plays. However, the main antagonist looks a lot like uncle Frank from the first 'raiser. Confusing cuts and flashbacks plague the movie and it tries way to hard to fit the creepy nature of the previous two films into a slasher formula. It doesn't fit well. The whole movie is completely out of whack and doesn't mesh. It has bad writing, lighting, and acting. Doug Bradley reprises Pinhead of course and does a fantastic job but the rest of the cast is head-shakingly bad. 

Like I said above this movie tries to utilize the creepy nature that comes with the Hellraiser name and fit it into this movie. The gore is there. It is bloody and brutal. This aspect of the film I am completely okay with. They even added strange little macabre scenes like the previous had done as well. I just wish the story-line was as good as the gore.  

This movie is worth skipping. I will post the best scene at the bottom of this write-up. I don't really recommend this to anyone unless they are watching a Hellraiser marathon. It's a swing and a miss. 

Director: Anthony Hickox
Country: USA
Style: Demonic Dimensional Horror

Did ya know...
The band appearing at the Boiler Room is Armored Saint performing the song "Hanging Judge".In an homage to the the first Hellraiser movie, J.P says "Come to daddy" to Terri, which is Frank's famous line from the first movie.The initial 1-sheet artwork featured a side shot of Pinhead's screaming face. The MPAA said the artwork was too intense and asked that Pinhead be removed from the poster campaign. Miramax instead decided to use a composite photo of Pinhead from the original Hellraiser 1-sheet and successfully argued that it was suitable as it had already been used in the past. The MPAA relented and allowed this new poster art to be used.