"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Opera

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Don’t get mad, but until now I’d never seen Dario Argento’s OPERA. It comes after a run of his best and/or most famous movies: DEEP RED, SUSPIRIA, INFERNO, TENEBRE and PHENOMENA, and I can finally confirm that it belongs in that company. Though it doesn’t reach the feverish intensity of his very best, it’s cool to see Argento get access to a higher level of production value. This takes place mostly in a real opera house with a full opera production, orchestra, behind-the-scenes crew and audience, and cinematographer Ronnie Taylor (Academy Award winner for GANDHI!) takes Argento’s fanciful camerawork up a couple levels.

The ambition is clear in the opening scene, when obnoxious (and unseen to us) opera diva Mara Cecova throws a fit at Marco (Ian Charleson, CHARIOTS OF FIRE, GANDHI), visionary director of the Julie-Taymor/HIGHLANDER-II-ish stylized production of Verdi’s Macbeth she’s starring in, and storms out. The camera seems to represent her point-of-view, with everyone looking at her as she has her tirade, but if so then I guess she floats off the stage into the crowd and then walks out backwards? It’s confusing… and totally impressive and captivating. (read the rest of this shit…)

Downrange

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

DOWNRANGE is a simple, solid 2017 film by Ryûhei Kitamura (AZUMI, GODZILLA: FINAL WARS, BRADLEY COOPER IN BRADLEY COOPER’S THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN, NO ONE LIVES) that’s exclusively on the streaming service Shudder in the U.S., though it’s on disc in some other countries. Written by Kitamura and Joey O’Bryan (MOTORWAY, TRIPLE THREAT), it’s about six road-tripping college students who get a flat tire on a highway out in the middle of nowhere and soon realize they’re being targeted by a cruel, patient sniper.

It’s a little odd how abruptly it starts with the blowout – no chance to see them in their normal state of driving. And I was confused by their relationships – some of them don’t know each other, and I thought they were talking about being involved in some kind of race or contest, but I guess I must’ve misunderstood? No matter. You get enough seeds of who they are and what they’re up to in their lives that I genuinely didn’t know which characters were included just to suddenly get shot and kick this thing off. They all seem like they’ll be around for a while. (read the rest of this shit…)

Blood Paradise

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

BLOOD PARADISE is a 2018 independent horror film that was released in July by Artsploitation on disc and digital – they must’ve sent it to me because I was on their list from reviewing RONDO. Like that one it’s a low budget movie from some hard working unknowns, but it gets huge mileage out of a great cast, some good cinematography and nice scenery. It’s simple, but it’s slick and has a distinct oddness and humor, and it’s over in 84 minutes without feeling rushed. Not bad.

Robin Richards (Andréa Winter) is a rich and world famous author of what I gather to be the type of novels that sell alot of hard cover copies at airports. But the latest in her once popular Blood Paradise series is a flop, so her agent convinces her to go on a retreat. Why not stop all this laying around in the sun at her picturesque Italian villa when she could rent a small cottage on a farm in Sweden and get started on the next book?

The accommodations turn out to be less than luxurious, and she’s not the kind of person who enjoys seeing farm animals slaughtered outside her window. As if that’s not bad enough, it quickly becomes clear that she’s surrounded by potential creepos. Whether they are just weird or worthy of fearing remains to be seen. (read the rest of this shit…)

Flesh & Blood (Into the Dark)

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

Into the Dark is a series of low budget holiday-themed horror movies that Blumhouse produced for Hulu. IMDb and Wikipedia classify them as an anthology TV series like Masters of Horror, but Hulu presents them as individual movies, and they’re feature length. (For some reason I assumed they’d be shorts.) I decided to try out last year’s FLESH & BLOOD, one of the two Thanksgiving movies in the series so far.

Kimberly Tooms (Diana Silvers before BOOKSMART and GLASS) has just turned 17 in early November of 2018. Some time after Thanksgiving the year before her mother (Meredeth Salenger, EDGE OF HONOR) was murdered, and the case has not been solved. Since then she’s developed agoraphobia. She has a bit of a support group online, but Dr. Saunders (Tembi Locke, STEEL), the therapist who comes to the house to work with her, doesn’t think she’s making enough progress. When she follows her dad (Dermot Mulroney, COPYCAT – also about agoraphobia)’s encouragement to try to get an Amazon package off the porch she fails. The world turns blurry, dizzying, loud. She can’t function. (read the rest of this shit…)

American Mary

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

AMERICAN MARY (2012) is a unique horror movie that’s arguably more of a seedy-underbelly crime movie. The protagonist, broke medical student Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle, DISTURBING BEHAVIOR, GINGER SNAPS, CARRIE [2002], FREDDY VS. JASON), definitely follows more of a noir arc than a normal horror heroine one. She falls into a strange subculture, finds herself doing things she never could’ve imagined, crosses lines she shouldn’t, gets deeper and deeper into trouble. And she’s crazy and scary and you sort of root for her. Or at least you like her.

It’s all a big accident. She’s running low on tuition money and too ashamed to let her grandma give her money. Out of desperation she applies for a stripper job. The boss, Billy Barker (Antonio Cupo, A CHRISTMAS TAIL), teases her about bringing a normal resume, amused at her medical background. But when his guys interrupt the interview about something nasty going on in the basement and their usual underworld doctor is unavailable he pays her $5,000 to go down (still in her audition lingerie) and sew up some guy’s slashed neck. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Dentist 2

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

THE DENTIST must’ve done well on video, because they had a sequel ready in two years, with director Brian Yuzna and star Corbin Bernsen both returning. Part 1 screenwriters Stuart Gordon & Dennis Paoli handed the reins to newcomer Richard Dana Smith, who went on to write thrillers (mostly for TV) with the following titles: THE STEPDAUGHTER, THE PERFECT WIFE, ALONE WITH A STRANGER, STRANGER AT THE DOOR, THE PERFECT NEIGHBOR and FRAMED FOR MURDER. THE DENTIST 2 is kind of the weirdo horror movie loving cousin of those types of movies.

The sequel opens with Dr. Feinstone’s dream about practicing dentistry on his ex Brooke (a returning Linda Hoffman, BLACK SCORPION II: AFTERSHOCK) in an all white office. Closeups fetishize her lipstick and nylons – this might be the only movie in cinematic history to cause discomfort by equating dentistry with sexiness. He accidentally makes her bleed, and things get way worse from there.

This is one of the things that haunts him in prison, where he tells his psychiatrist (Rende Rae Norman, TRUE COLORS, The Young & the Restless) that he’s a good person and it was a “stranger” who did all those horrible things in part 1. It’s not like he’s trying to put on a front, though, because he won’t pretend he’s not still violently angry when she asks about his wife cheating on him. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Dentist

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

THE DENTIST is a unique little horror movie about a couple of days where a guy’s life totally unravels. Dr. Alan Feinstone (Corbin Bernsen, TALES FROM THE HOOD) is an asshole from the word go – we see him berating his wife Brooke (Linda Hoffman, FACE/OFF) over a stain not coming out of one of his shirts, then forgiving her because she bought him expensive cuff links. When he catches her blowing the pool cleaner (Michael Stadvec, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK… AGAIN, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK… FOR MORE, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK… TO APOLOGIZE BECAUSE THEY’VE REALLY CHANGED) he fantasizes about screaming at her and forcing her at gunpoint to bite down with her “perfect teeth.” Instead he doesn’t confront her and then completely loses his shit.

I like the messy, accidental piling up of events. There’s almost a true crime feel to it. He tries to sneak up on the homewrecker and shoot him, ends up instead shooting a neighbor’s dog that attacks him for trespassing. Ken Foree (FROM BEYOND) and Tony Noakes (BREAKAWAY) play the police detectives who circle around with the potential to catch him, but they’re investigating the killing of a pet, not a person. They’re investigating a weird, creepy thing, not knowing it’s more serious than that. (read the rest of this shit…)

Dr. Giggles

Monday, November 18th, 2019

DR. GIGGLES is not the best kind of horror movie, but it’s a kind I like: the kind that knowingly, shamelessly embraces absurdity and formula. It says okay, I am a slasher movie, my theme is “a killer doctor,” step aside and I will do my thing. So you kinda know what it’s gonna be, and you get a laugh from some of the specific choices or smile with satisfaction when that thing you were assuming had to happen does happen.

We first see the good doctor (Larry Drake in his feature film followup to DARKMAN) demonstrating an experimental surgery to his colleagues in the observation deck. But then we realize that he’s not supposed to be doing this – he’s escaped his cell in a mental institution, he’s cutting up one of the doctors, and the “colleagues” are other patients. Security there nicknamed him Dr. Giggles because he’s a John Doe and he does indeed giggle alot. Drake is so good at the creepy giggling I wonder if he brought it to the character and they rebuilt the movie around it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Doctor Sleep

Monday, November 11th, 2019

As a young man I read a bunch of Stephen King. He was my favorite until I decided Clive Barker was more interesting – I don’t know if I was right. The point is I’m just another movie-watching asshole and can’t pretend to be a King scholar. I haven’t read The Shining (1977) or its 2013 sequel Doctor Sleep. I have, of course, seen Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING, and like everyone except King and the Razzies voters I think it’s a masterpiece. (I also just realized it’s the first horror movie I remember seeing.)

It almost seemed like a suicide mission for writer/director/editor Mike Flanagan (OCULUS, HUSH, GERALD’S GAME) to make a movie out of Doctor Sleep. How do you even make a sequel to one of the most unfuckwithable horror movies ever made – a fucking Stanley Kubrick movie – let alone try to please the author who famously hated the movie’s take on his very personal story about alcoholism? He tried to bridge the movie with the books, and I think he pulled it off! (read the rest of this shit…)

The Hills Have Eyes

Thursday, October 31st, 2019

THE HILLS HAVE EYES is not my favorite Wes Craven movie, but in a certain sense it’s one of his purest. It has that LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT maniac-college-professor vibe – another raw, seedy gut-punch of a drive-in movie layered with completely sincere themes and social commentary. And it’s a little more fantastical than LAST HOUSE, with less straight up degradation, so I don’t feel as ashamed for liking it.

Instead of a gang of criminals we have a literal tribe of modern primitives – the wicked spawn of Papa Jupiter (James Whitworth, THE CANDY SNATCHERS), born “40 pounds and hairy as a monkey” in Nevada, mutated by nuclear tests and the nearby Air Force gunnery range, grew to adult size too fast, burned down his parents’ home, his dad split his face open with a tire iron and left him in the desert to die, but he survived in the hills and kidnapped some poor prostitute (Cordy Clark) “to raise a passel of wild kids” with. They wear animal parts and pieces of junk as trophies, and like the buzzards in the sky they stay above, keeping watch below, waiting to see what the highway brings them. (read the rest of this shit…)