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Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) - Jonathan Liebesman

The prequel that no one was asking for. This movie explains the backstory to revisionist remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 2003. Of course if you are a fan of splatter flicks this is right up your alley. I usually don't mind the quality as long as the story is being developed. This works. The film hits the ground running. We get to see the birth of Leatherface and are introduced to the unlucky group of young people that will undoubtedly fall victim to the murderous Hewitt Family. 

The Hewitt family is just getting their footing and setting themselves up to be the most vicious and blood-thirsty family of killers in America. Thomas Hewitt has murdered his boss at the local meat packing plant and Charlie has executed and assumed the identity of the Sheriff. This doesn't bode well for the unlucky group of young adults riding through town. Not only are the adults being harassed by a gang of bikers, but they are also being hunted by the twisted cannibalistic family. 

The storyline does feel as if it is being hammered into place. At least during a few segments of this film. Take Charlie Hewitt's transformation into Sheriff Hoyt. It was alright but forced. The underlying storyline with the young adults is okay, but it just lacks character. They try to add depth with some bikers but it just falls flat. For everything that this movie should be, it isn't. 

Nothing really sets this apart from the 2003 remake. You sort of understand where the movie is going without even seeing it. You know that the Hewitt Family is going to be victorious to some degree. I mean they go-on to be in the original remake. The gore isn't that bad. It's actually pretty tame for being so bloody. I actually expected this one to be more gruesome than it actually was. Most of the mutilation is off camera. But it is strongly implied with big spurts of blood. The chainsaw murders are more stabbing than slicing. That little detail ensures that the movie isn't too graphic. Don't get me wrong. This movie still has loads of blood and is inappropriate for those with low constitution. But it's not hard to watch. 

The movie does have the problem of being long and drawn out. Although most of it is packed with pointless filler action, but if you're a fan of that kind of thing then it shouldn't be much of an issue. It's not a bad movie it's just nothing new. I would suggest watching the original and the 2003 remake but not this. It's just unnecessary. 

Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Starring: Jordana Brewster, Taylor Handley, Diora Baird, and R. Lee Emery
Style: Cannibalistic Graphic Slasher
Studio: New Line Cinema
Country: USA

Did ya know? 

According to producer Brad Fuller, the film was given an NC-17 by the MPAA, and a total of 17 scenes had to be edited in order to get an R rating.

Jordana Brewster initially got made fun of for the way she ran during filming scenes in which her character Chrissie had to run. Jordana said she's use to running on a treadmill in form, producer Andrew Form (and Jordana's future husband) told her that she looked like she was running in the 'Chariots of Fire', they told her to run messy with her arms in the air and not go in a straight line. Jordana said she ended up running faster then the camera operators could go and was like, 'Well, how's that?' with a laugh

When Eric gets his face wrapped in cellophane by Sheriff Hoyt that's actually real, Matt Bomer's head was actually being wrapped in Saran Wrap, R. Lee Ermey said he was very concerned for him. They left a small gap opening at the bottom of Matt's chin for him to breathe but that didn't help much, so when ever he was having trouble breathing he would indicate by knocking his knees together

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Green Inferno (2013) - Eli Roth

Obviously, this is a film truly inspired by the brief cannibal craze of the late 70's and early 80's. The film calls back to classics like Cannibal Ferox and Cannibal Holocaust. However, this film has the technology to fully flush out the genre. This gross-out horror film, from the master of sleaze, is a perfect fit for the overly-saturated PG-13 era of horror that we live in. The film is as beautiful as it is revolting. It's definitely worth a watch. If you're brave enough.

A group of young college kids go on a protest trip to South America. Their goal is to protest the destruction of the rain forest in Peru and stop a demolition company from its work. Nothing goes right from the start. Justine, the main character, is set-up and used by their guide and leader, Alejandro. They manage to accomplish their goal but end up being stranded after a plane crash on their return trip. The survivors of the trip are found by a cannibalistic tribe that seems more than excited to eat them. The film showcases their attempts to survive and struggle to escape death.

This is the kind of horror movie that makes you dig your fingernails into the couch cushion. Thanks to Eli Roth, parts of this movie are really hard to watch. It gets really intense really fast. The reality of the situation sits right over your head the entire film. Some scenes are really uneasy and really hard to digest, pardon the pun. I guess I am trying to tell you not to eat dinner when your watching this. It won't go over well.

The characters are pretty flushed out. They could have done with a little bit more development. I guess that point is moot when your characters are getting their guts ripped out part-way through the film. The tribe is great. They are terrifying and interesting all at the same time. Director Eli Roth even used a real tribe in Peru to help as extras and film crew. This really adds to the picture. Plus the cinematography is fantastic. Really beautiful. The rain forest is just a fantastic place, that is countered with the violence and calculated gore. It's a good mix.

This movie is like Apocalyptico with no scruples. If you have seen Cannibal Holocaust then you might be more comfortable than someone without any context. This movie isn't for those with a feint heart or stomach. During a screening of this on the indy circuit someone in the audience passed out due to fright. That's nuts. 

This climate needs directors like Eli Roth to keep the horror movie ship on an even keel. We are too uptight about what we watch on television now. It's been like that for years but it's just the way the world is working. Movies that push buttons and boundaries are constantly evolving the product and that is a good thing. Horror is in a major slump. We are shoveling through family friendly crap and a lot of remakes, just to find some sort of diamond in the rough. Thank god for the purists like Roth who keep the genre in perspective. Watch The Green Inferno with friends and be happy that they squirm and fidget. That is what the movie was made for. 

Director: Eli Roth
Starring: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Daryl Sabara, and Kirby Bliss Blanton
Style: Extreme Graphic Natural Horror
Country: USA
Studio: World Entertainment

Did ya know? 

The film's moral decline is inspired by the degraded descent of the protagonists of Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust (1980), whereas the violence and karmic playout owes to the less controversial Cannibal Ferox (1981) for it's inspiration.
While the whole cast suffered from bug bites, Kirby Bliss Blanton had to be hospitalized.
According to the film's trailer, the Peruvian jungle natives who will appear in the movie have never been filmed or photographed by any Westerners before.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Shocker (1989) - Wes Craven

This movie is terrible but polished. I can recall Shocker trailer spots on television from my childhood. It looked frightening. I was wrong. Shocker was campy, laughable, and above all confusing. It is great for parties and marathons, but shouldn't be considered for serious film study. Absolutely nothing seems fresh or new. Almost everything feels half-assed and uninspired. But hey, this is horror. I guess I can lighten up. A bit. 

For some reason a teenager has a telekinetic link with a notorious serial killer named Horace Pinker. This guy has apparently murdered over thirty families in twenty years. He is brutal and loves killing. The psychic link allows the teenager to view the killings and witness these brutal murders. He can even project himself to appear physically in the presence of Pinker. It's weird and confusing. Eventually, the teen helps the police capture Pinker, who vows to get his revenge. While on Death Row, Pinker makes a deal with the Devil or some demon. On his execution date he is given The Chair. However, he seems to absorb the electricity making him stronger and transforming him into Shocker! 

This is where the movie just keeps beating itself into the ground. Horace Pinker develops new powers as Shocker. He is apparently made of pure electricity and can transfer his consciousness between bodies and victims. He seemingly jumps between bodies and chases the teen through the whole movie. It's bizarre. At one point he takes control of a small child and curses up a storm, which is hilarious. 

You hear about some movies that are so bad they end up being good. This is kind of one of those movies. Shocker goes on for far too long. It just keeps drudging along with a strange random pace that becomes frustrating. It's not scary. In fact it feels pretty tame. Almost made for television. At some points it felt as if I were watching an X-Files episode or something like that. Not just because Mitch Pileggi plays Horace Pinker. But it's tone is completely different other horror movies coming out around the same time. I felt like Wes Craven's New Nightmare felt the same way. 

The movie has a good deal of gore and speed/sleaze metal for the soundtrack. In these departments the film does well. However, the storyline and general malaise of the actors makes this pretty forgettable. It's not a wonder that no one really talks about it. Wes Craven has created some amazing ideas, but this was not one of them. Shocker should stay hidden away. 

Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Mitch Pileggi, Peter Berg, and Michael Murphy
Style: Telekinetic Slasher
Studio: Universal
Country: USA

Did ya know? 
According to Wes Craven, the film was severely cut for an R-rating. It took around 13 submissions to the MPAA to receive an "R" instead of an "X". Some of the scenes that were cut include; Pinker spitting out fingers that he bit off from prison guard, longer and more graphic electrocution of Pinker and longer scene of possessed coach stabbing his own hand.

The body of the jogger in the park that Horace takes over is Jonathan Craven, son of director Wes Craven.

When Jonathan and his father enter the Tavern after the funeral of their family, a news program is playing on the TV in the background and discussing the murders. Someone immediately changes the channel and on comes (briefly) the 1986 concert footage of Alice Cooper's The Nightmare Returns tour.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Goosebumps (2015) - Rob Letterman

R.L. Stein had penned the first chapter books I had ever read. Goosebumps was a fantastic series that terrified me as a young man in short pants. Tales of ventriloquist dummies coming to life, evil possessive masks, and monster blood were all that I needed to breed a lifetime of insomnia fueled nights watching horror movies and writing about them. Stein himself is an awesome writer and great guy. I couldn't be happier about his media hitting the silver screen, and it's about time. 

Firstly, Jack Black is not the first person I would have chosen to fill any role in a Goosebumps inspired movie. However, his presence is not met with resistance. In fact he does a fantastic job of not being his usual self. I think that as his career matures, Black is starting to become less slap-sticky and more serious. Almost like an Orson Wells type actor. Surprisingly, he shows his chops here as R.L. Stein. That's right, this film is based in a reality that has Goosebumps novels and R.L. Stein in it. 

A young man and his friend accidentally awaken creatures from the Goosebumps book series and introduce them into the "real" world. Author and adventurer R.L. Stein and his daughter accompany the boys on a courageous journey to save themselves and the world. The movie mixes comedy, in a pretty decent way, with family friendly horror and mild adventure. Terrifying favorites like the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, Slappy the Dummy, the giant Praying Mantis, and the Invisible Boy all make appearances. Along with many others. I was very pleasantly surprised. 

This movie is definitely like a darker Jumanji. Similar fantastical elements and scenarios are in effect and drive the story's adventure. The acting doesn't really have a chance to get that deep, so for what we get, it's not that bad. Actor Dylan Minnette and Ryan Lee both do a really great job. Lee adds a great, safe and clean comedy element with Minnette as the straight man. It's pretty genius.  

Goosebumps is in no way scary. It's not really meant to be. It's great for everyone and definitely safe for all. It plays it safe with a PG rating, but still has recognizable elements of horror. It's really not something that I expected. It's a stand out for sure. It's a shame that a movie with so much promise, had to wait so long before being made. This had apparently been in production hell since 1998. At one point Tim Burton was actually attached. That would have been pretty amazing. George Romero was also rumored to have turned in a draft. I wonder what that would have been? 

Director: Rob Letterman
Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Ryan Lee, and Odeya Rush
Style: Fantasy Adventure Horror
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Country: USA

Did ya know? 

As R.L. Stine searches the high school for a quiet place to write his new story, he discovers an empty theater auditorium where the high school theater department had been rehearsing a stage production of Stephen King's "The Shining." The stage set is built to resemble the hotel room. This is a multi-layered visual gag as it references jokes made earlier in the film, when Stine reacts to being compared to "Steve King," and also references the fact that "The Shining" follows a writer in a hotel room.

R.L. Stine makes a cameo and says hi to Jack Black while walking through the halls of the school at the end of the movie. The real R.L. Stine's character name was Mr. Black and Jack Black was Mr. Stine.

Upon seeing the giant preying mantis, R.L. Stine worriedly claims he doesn't remember writing about it in one of his books. The book the giant mantis appears in is "A Shocker on Shock Street". Ironically, the book refers to "Shock Street" as a series of movies ala "Elm Street".


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Wolf Man (1941) - George Waggner

Another Universal Monsters movie classic. The Wolf Man is a fantastic story that introduces the newly developed modern horror community to werewolves. At least in the form that we all know and take as scripture. Lon Chaney Jr. turns in his most infamous performance in the lead. It was definitely the peak of his career, but it serves him very well. I am very hard on Werewolf movies and this one gets no mercy. I went into this watching it with a pretty great distaste, but I was softened. It was good. 

Lon Chaney Jr. plays an American, Larry Talbot, that has come to his ancestral homeland of Whales. He falls in with the locals and enjoys the scenery. Everyone seems really outspoken about werewolves. They chant and tell tales that eventually intrigue Talbot into a trip to a Gypsy Camp. They are attacked by a werewolf but Talbot ends up killing it. However, in the struggle the werewolf bit him. He is told of his fate to become a werewolf during every full moon. Larry distances himself from everyone. He's afraid that he might become a werewolf with an insatiable lust for blood. He begs for everyone to leave him alone and when the moon is full he becomes the Wolf Man! He stalks the shadows preying on whatever might come his way. 

This film is responsible for endless spawn of the same genre. Just about every iconic trope associated with werewolf movies comes from this feature. Silver Bullets, The infectious bite, and turning during the full moon are just a few. It's definitely a benchmark for horror fans. The character design is really great, dated, but great. The cinematography helps a lot. Some of the shots of The Wolf Man stalking through the shadows are just beautiful. The makeup and look is so iconic and the way that the actor portrays it is fantastic. If you are a fan of makeup and design you should definitely check this out. 

The movie does an amazing job of building a world that it exists in. Everything is pretty flushed out. The acing is a bit rough but has it where it counts. The real draw is the story. It's wonderful. You get an amazing introduction to Lyconthropy and an iconic telling of that subject. Lon Chaney Jr. gives the best performance of his career even though it starts out a bit weird and creepy. The movie doesn't really get very dull. It's short but it packs a great deal of quality storytelling. Parts of it are corny but it's good. 

The Wolf Man isn't scary. It has a few moments that could be confused for scariness. But overall, this film just doesn't get the blood rushing. It may be pretty and iconic, but it isn't scary at all. Larry Talbot is a creep in a different sense. He leers at women through a spyglass and demands romantic interludes from them. 

Of course this movie is recommended. This movie was great but not amazing. If you are a student or fan of the genre, then this is right up your alley. This is the most iconic werewolf movie and nearly the most iconic horror movie of all time. I don't recommend werewolf movies that often. I just find the subject to be pretty dumb. But after starting this project I have started to let down my guard a bit more. This may not be the best, but it is the most well known. Check it out. 

Director: George Waggner
Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Reigns, Warren William, and Bela Lugosi
Style: Fantasy Werewolf Horror
Studio: Universal
Country: USA

Did ya know...

The church scenes were shot on the old "Hunchback of Notre Dame" set where Chaney's father had played Quasimodo in 1923.
The Wolf man battled a bear in one scene but unfortunately the bear ran away during filming. What few scenes were filmed were put into the theatrical trailer.
Larry's silver wolf-headed cane, the only known surviving prop from the movie, currently resides in the personal collection of genre film archivist Bob Burns. Burns, who was a schoolboy at the time, was given the cane head by the man who made it for the film, prop-maker Ellis Burman.