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Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Day of the Dead (35th anniversary revisit)

Friday, July 17th, 2020

July 19, 1985

DAY OF THE DEAD – like MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME – is a favorite movie of mine that I’ve already written about thoroughly (click here for my review from 2013), but that still felt important to revisit in my analysis of the Summer of 1985. I could watch it every year regardless, but even more than OMEGA MAN this is a movie that I’ve thought of repeatedly since the pandemic lockdown started four months ago. And sure enough, the movie rings true in new ways in 2020. George Romero knew what he was doing.

Before we get to that, let’s talk about it in the context of ’85. Obviously DAY is a little niche  – another one of the many interesting movies coming out on the sidelines, not necessarily trying to capture the culture like BACK TO THE FUTURE or something. In a way it goes hand in hand with THUNDERDOME. Both are by visionary genre directors with the first name George, the less-well-received part 3s in the series each director is best known for, which has new chapters spread across decades, drastically reinventing its world each time. But THUNDERDOME was pitched for a wider (and younger) audience than THE ROAD WARRIOR, while DAY continued on the low budget/super-gory path of DAWN OF THE DEAD. And while THUNDERDOME has a larger scale and far more meticulous world-building than its predecessor, DAY mostly just has advances (huge ones) in its special effects makeup. (read the rest of this shit…)

Throne of Blood

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

THRONE OF BLOOD (蜘蛛巣城, Kumonosu-jō, “SPIDER WEB CASTLE”) is an Akira Kurosawa movie from 1957, and the only one I’ve seen by him that has supernatural shit in it. It’s partly inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which to be honest I don’t remember that well, because I only read it in school, and Julie Taymor hasn’t made it into a movie yet. But even I picked up on it when the Lady Macbeth-like character couldn’t stop scrubbing her hands, thinking they still had blood on them. That guy died 400 years ago, and he still owns guilty hand-washing scenes. Hats off.

Two generals, Washizu Taketoki (Toshiro Mifune, HELL IN THE PACIFIC) and Miki Yoshiteru (Akira Kubo, GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE), are headed back to their boss Lord Tsuzuki (Hiroshi Tachikawa, FIGHTING ELEGY) at Spider Web Castle after a glorious victory in battle. But, like a horror movie, the woods seem to have changed, and they’ve gotten lost. Then they spot a strange all white ghosty type person (Chieko Naniwa, SANSHO THE BAILIFF) just kinda sitting there in the woods glowing. And when that happens, I mean you basically got a choice of running away or walking up to it and seeing what the deal is. They choose B. (read the rest of this shit…)

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (and a little on Ganja & Hess)

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Here’s something for a limited audience: Spike Lee, following his guerilla-style, filmed-in-three-weeks, released-in-41-theaters RED HOOK SUMMER, and his universally rejected OLDBOY remake, wanted to do a faithful remake of Bill Gunn’s 1974 arthouse bloodsucker movie GANJA AND HESS. Even with a lower budget than RED HOOK SUMMER, he knew no studio was gonna give him money for something like that, so he raised the money on Kickstarter.

It’s not something the average person is gonna need to see, but it’s weird that it took me so long to see this particular Official Spike Lee Joint (as the credits label it). I love Spike Lee, and I think even the ones I don’t like as much (BAMBOOZLED when it came out – haven’t rewatched it though and could well be wrong) are interesting and worth analyzing. DO THE RIGHT THING is still my favorite, and around the time it came out I caught a double feature of SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT and SCHOOL DAZE, and since then his only theatrical releases I’ve missed were SHE HATE ME (still haven’t seen it), RED HOOK SUMMER (I’m not sure it played here) and this one. But yes, I saw GIRL 6, I saw MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA, I saw CHI-RAQ. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Lift

Monday, July 6th, 2020

“I don’t much like the lift, I prefer to take the stairs, it’s much safer.”

July 3, 1985

THE LIFT (DE LIFT) is a 1983 Dutch horror film, the feature debut of music video, TV and short film director Dick Maas, who would later direct AMSTERDAMNED. According to The New York Times it played the Waverly starting July 3rd, but I don’t know if it played other cities on that day, or later, or what. It was not in the top 25 at the box office for that weekend, which means it made less than the $2,723 that MOVERS & SHAKERS starring Walter Matthau made on the one screen it had left in its tenth week. So, as with WARRIORS OF THE WIND and THE STUFF earlier in this series, I’m unsure about the exact time and size of the release, but there’s enough evidence to be convinced it was played on some screens in the Summer of 1985.

So this was a season when adventurous filmgoers in certain American cities might’ve been able to see horror movies about killer yogurt and a killer elevator. THE STUFF treated its concept with a straight face, but there were jokes, and some very clear satire. I will trust the various reviews of the time that THE LIFT is a black comedy, but to me it plays serious.

(read the rest of this shit…)

The Stuff

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

June 14, 1985

“Are you eatin it? Or is it eatin you?”

I have a hard time putting my finger on the exact tone of THE STUFF. Its entire subject and premise clearly satirize consumerism, fads and greedy corporations making money from unhealthy products. The opening scene is laugh out loud funny, and definitely a parody of THE BLOB. The score by Anthony Guefen (DEADLY EYES) is often comically overblown for the scenes it accompanies, and sounds like library music. The characters often say and do odd things in the manner of accidentally funny low budget movies, but we know from his other work that writer/director Larry Cohen knows what he’s doing. Still, it doesn’t come across to me like a spoof, like it’s deadpan in order to be funnier. It seems more like yeah, we know this is a goofy idea, but we’re treating it seriously, just go with it.

I don’t feel like I quite understand its intentions. But that’s okay. Whatever they were going for, they came up with something unique.

“The Stuff” is the name a marketing firm comes up with for a white foam that an old man finds bubbling out of the ground. People like to joke about the guy in THE BLOB poking the meteorite with a stick, but this guy goes swiftly from “what is this weird substance?” to “hmm, let me taste it.” And it’s so delicious it just turns into snack time for him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cry Havoc

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

Many of the movies I love are a kind of heightened or polished exploitation. They’re the standout kicking and stabbing movies that were mass-produced in the ’70s to fill slots at drive-ins but exceeded their mandate and ended up acing the test of time. Or they’re the modern, more expensive movies in popular genres that evolved out of the best b-pictures. But occasionally I’ll take the seatbelt off and step into the muck of legitimate 21st century exploitation.

That’s what I would consider CRY HAVOC, a mashup between a slasher movie and a Charles Bronson movie that came out on VOD and DVD this week. I don’t mean a Charles Bronson type movie. I mean there is a straight up Charles Bronson impersonator trying to rescue his daughter from a masked slasher. And it’s important to emphasize that this is not a SHARKNADO deal. There are zero jokes in the movie and if it’s meant to be funny it wisely doesn’t let on.

I first learned of the Robert Bronzi phenomenon in 2018 when I reviewed DEATH KISS. Writer/director/editor/cinematographer Rene Perez, who has been doing horror and fantasy b-movies since 2010, spotted him in a wild west stunt show in Spain and put him in a horror western called FROM HELL TO THE WILD WEST, followed by that DEATH WISH riff. Both DEATH KISS and CRY HAVOC take place today but make Bronzi look like the actual Charles Bronson, transported through time, mustache, clothes and attitude intact. A timeless, ageless, nameless spirit of vengeance. (read the rest of this shit…)

Blood Quantum

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

I keep having to write this same exact preamble, so here’s the short version: yes, we all think we’re sick of zombie movies, but here’s another really good one. (See also: TRAIN TO BUSAN, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.) The fresh spin on BLOOD QUANTUM – a Canadian one that opened the Midnight Madness portion of the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival and got a surprise release on Shudder this week – starts with it taking place on a First Nations reserve (or Indian reservation as people here call it).

It has a vivid weird-day-unfolding feel, like a serious THE DEAD DON’T DIE, rolling out the odd characters in town through the point of view of Red Crow reserve chief of police Traylor (Michael Greyeyes, DANCE ME OUTSIDE, FIRESTORM, Fear the Walking Dead, True Detective). But it starts on his dad, Gisigu (Stonehorse Lone Goeman, a sturdy, bald old badass with no other acting credits) gutting a bunch of salmon he caught. The fucking things won’t stop flipping around like they’re in that Faith No More video. (read the rest of this shit…)

Girl on the Third Floor

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR is a 2019 horror film that’s been on video for a while and recently showed up on Netflix. It stars Phil Brooks (RABID), better known under his pro-wrestling name CM Punk, but it’s not a movie designed to star a muscleman, and not released under the prestigious WWE Films banner. That might be because they don’t do as many wrestler-based movies anymore, or because he’s a mixed martial artist now, or because he left WWE on bad terms saying he would never work with them again and accused their doctors of malpractice on a podcast and was subject of a defamation lawsuit for it and won. Could be any of those reasons that he had to go out and book a normal acting role.

To be honest I had to look that stuff up, I don’t know much about him. I didn’t even know that he looks like Jon Hamm. He slimmed down to regular-muscular-guy size as opposed to wrestler size, but doesn’t hide that he’s covered in tattoos. His character Don Koch is an ex-lawyer infamous for ripping off his clients, but doesn’t fit your preconceived notions of somebody like that since he’s got the ink and listens to Neurosis and stuff. That helped me not hate him as he tries to start over in the Chicago suburbs.

That’s where he’s just starting renovating a rundown house, his pregnant wife Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn, LITTLE CHICAGO, Banshee) periodically checking in on Facetime. He’s alone with his dog, some power tools, some personal demons, and maybe some supernatural entities. At least that’s my interpretation of the various goos dripping from outlets, lightbulbs and holes in the walls. (read the rest of this shit…)

Absentia

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

I think it’s pretty widely agreed now that Mike Flanagan is one of the most qualified candidates for a new “Master of Horror,” right? Two others would be Jordan Peele and Ari Aster, but they only have two movies each to go by. Flanagan has more evidence on file. I know it’s a title previously reserved for the guys we read about in Fangoria when we were growing up, and here I’m nominating three guys I’m older than. Time is a bastard. But we need fresh blood. The Masters need heirs.

I didn’t review them, but I thought HUSH and GERALD’S GAME (both not-on-DVD Netflix exclusives, unfortunately) were good. I think DOCTOR SLEEP is truly great, and will likely be near the top of my best of the decade list. But of the one’s I’ve seen so far his true masterpiece is the TV series The Haunting of Hill House. I’m a guy who generally doesn’t give a shit about ghost stories, and has a hard time keeping up with TV shows, but I found that series absolutely captivating, deeply moving, and at times really fuckin scary. I didn’t even need the ghosts to show up very often, honestly. I was so into the characters. As thrilling as the climax was, I was kind of sad to get to the last episodes because I just wanted it to keep going.

DOCTOR SLEEP and Hill House have many themes and elements in common, despite being adapted from unrelated books. And since they’re his biggest and most expensive to date, they’re kind of like the ultimate Mike Flanagan films. Both could be described as sprawling – they have multiple time periods and locations, some giant sets, large casts, great FX and a type of high level cinematography I love with very complex and effective camera moves (including long takes). So I really didn’t know if his first feature ABSENTIA, which had a $70,000 budget raised partly on Kickstarter and was filmed mostly in his apartment in Glendale, would seem that much like what we now know is a Mike Flanagan film. (read the rest of this shit…)

All Cheerleaders Die

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

A week or two ago, when I reviewed Lucky McKee’s Lifetime thriller KINDRED SPIRITS, I said I’d watch anything by him because of how much I loved THE WOMAN. But after I wrote that I felt like I was a little full of shit because I knew he did a movie that I hadn’t gotten around to yet. So I got around to it. I watched ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE (2013) on Shudder, but I think it’s also on Tubi, if that helps you to watch along at home.

I know I should’ve watched it a long time ago. I guess I hestiated because the title sounds like a comedy, and it sounds like it’s about a thing that’s not all that interesting long before you get to my age. And he’s only co-director and I thought it was some previous unfinished thing because I remembered that title being on his IMDb profile a million years ago. (read the rest of this shit…)