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Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Livid

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

tn_lividLIVID is from the writer-directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, who did INSIDE, an incredibly intense movie even before it turns envelope-pushing brutal. That was one of those rare movies that actually made my heart beat faster. So I looked forward to seeing their next movie… and then the Weinsteins brought it. “We are thrilled to be back in business with Julien and Alex and couldn’t be more excited to help bring their frightening vision to fans everywhere,” said Bob Weinstein in a press release. I bet they actually could’ve been more excited, because that was 2011 and they still haven’t brought their frightening vision to fans anywhere. I think they’re considering an American remake. While they ponder maybe doing that some day for some reason the team went on to do another one called AMONG THE LIVING and a segment of THE ABCS OF DEATH 2 and an upcoming Texas Chain Saw prequel called LEATHERFACE that will hopefully be better than it sounds. Meanwhile, four-years-old LIVID sits on the Weinstein’s Fuck You, It’s Ours trophy shelf. So I gave up waiting and rented the old region 2 DVD from France.

This is the story of Lucie (Chloe Coulloud) on her first day as a trainee helping Mrs. Wilson (Catherine Jacob) on her rounds taking care of elderly people, checking up on them, giving them their meds and stuff. Lucie, who kinda reminds me of Scarlett Johansson when she was a little younger, impresses Mrs. Wilson by taking to it well, even knowing how to administer shots. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Visit

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

tn_visitM. Night Shyamalan has had one of the harshest popularity drop-offs of any name brand movie director. THE SIXTH SENSE got him a couple films worth of “could he be a new Spielberg?” goodwill before the love affair ended non-amicably. He rubbed many of us the wrong way by becoming increasingly self-aggrandizing as his movies got more and more misguided, arguably culminating in the ridiculous LADY IN THE WATER, where the villain is a pompous film critic and Shyamalan himself plays a writer whose work is destined to inspire the next Martin Luther King. Of course, most people limit their critique to making fun of the twist endings he used to do and xenophobically refusing to expend a regular amount of effort to learn his last name. (SHAW-MUH-LAWN, guys. Fewer syllables than Tarantino or Kurosawa. You can learn it.)

These days he doesn’t even get a fair shot. AFTER EARTH, for example, did not deserve the disdain it got. But I think we’re fair in assuming he’s not gonna turn out to be a great director for the ages.

THE VISIT is not a rebirth of the once promising writer-director, but it’s a positive step. It shows an awareness I didn’t know he had. Instead of floundering with ambitions far beyond his abilities he’s decided to slum it in the middling subgenre of the Jason Blum produced found footage/fake documentary horror movie (see also: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 1, 2, 3, 4 and GHOST DIMENSION, THE BAY, AREA 51, THE GALLOWS, UNFRIENDED 1 and 2). While the format is usually used as a workaround for filmmaking competence and professional actors, Shyamalan treats it as a creative challenge. It never seems like laziness, it seems like a puzzle. Can he use this “kid with handheld camera” bullshit and still get in some of his favorite things: great performances by young actors, some beautiful shots, some sadness and sentiment? (read the rest of this shit…)

Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later

Friday, October 30th, 2015

tn_H20Earlier this month when I reviewed HALLOWEEN II I wrote that it was “easily one of the best or the best HALLOWEEN sequel they made.” I was being a little cagey, saving it for today to reveal my opinion that the actual best sequel is 1998’s HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER. First I watched it again and verified that the verdict still stands now that we’re only a couple years away from being able to make HALLOWEEN H20-20: HALLOWEEN H20 TWENTY YEARS LATER. Also this time I learned that it plays even better when watched immediately after II.

It seems designed for that, because it begins with “Mr. Sandman” by the Chordettes, the same thing that played as Laurie rode off in the ambulance at the end of II. Unlike the other sequels it leaves Loomis dead after blowing himself up with Michael (Donald Pleasance had passed away by this point anyway). But Laurie isn’t the only major character to survive II: there was also Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), Loomis’s nurse colleague. That’s who Michael comes after first.

Marion’s still working as a nurse, and still chain smoking. She comes home to her house in a different Illinois suburb besides Haddonfield and finds it broken into. The police take their sweet time coming, but two neighbor boys (one played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, SHADOWBOXER, KILLSHOT, LINCOLN) keep her company while she waits. I like that because in HALLOWEEN Laurie tried to run to a neighbor’s house for help and they turned off the lights and wouldn’t answer the door. Marion does have helpful neighbors, but things don’t turn out any better.

Of course this is the opening kill scene, but it’s also a strategic move by Michael, who ransacks Marion’s office, searches her files and leaves an empty one labeled “Laurie Strode,” signaling that he’s figured out the whereabouts of his sister (a triumphantly returning Jamie Lee Curtis), last survivor of the Halloween Murders. She’s in California, working as headmistress at a boarding school attended by her 17 year old son John (introducing Josh Hartnett) under the assumed name Kari Tate. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Return of the Living Dead

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

tn_rotldThere are a bunch of movies that I consider among my very favorites, that I refer to all the time, and then when I try to make a link to them in another review I realize what in God’s name, how have I not officially reviewed the greatest zombie movie ever made by somebody who is not named George Romero? And what does this say about me as a person?

Not being made by Romero was actually kind of the whole point of this one. Romero and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD co-writer (and infamous 30th Anniversary Edition maker) John Russo disagreed with Romero about how to do a sequel. Romero thought it should be one of the best movies of all time and Russo wanted to go a different direction. So Romero made DAWN OF THE DEAD and Russo wrote a book called THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD which apparently starts with a bus crash in a small town where the locals aren’t able to impale the brains of the dead like they usually do. (The book is very rare and pricey so I haven’t read it for myself).

The film rights ended up with Tobe Hooper with DARK STAR star/Jodorowsky’s DUNE would-be effects guy/ALIEN writer Dan O’Bannon working on the script. When Hooper left to do LIFEFORCE instead O’Bannon took over as director and rewrote the whole thing to be more humorous and have nothing to do with the book. (Russo got a story credit along with Rudy Ricci, another Romero buddy who wrote THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA and was one of the bikers in DAWN OF THE DEAD. In the end Russo wrote the novelization of the movie that came out of the book that he wrote in order to make into a movie.) (read the rest of this shit…)

The Fog

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

tn_fogFive minutes before midnight and the 100th anniversary of the founding of his coastal California town of Antonio Bay, John Houseman tells a ghost story to a group of kids gathered around a campfire. He claims the town was founded on gold stolen from a deliberately sunken pirate ship (like in the cool samurai movie GOYOKIN, or the Tom Laughlin western THE MASTER GUNFIGHTER), and the original owners will be coming back tonight for what’s theirs. This would be corny as a wraparound story, but it’s perfect as a prologue and a warning. We enjoy the art of oral storytelling and a brief pause before the movie marches into an atmospheric title sequence set to a great synth score that could only mean this is a John Carpenter film.

This is more of an ensemble than many Carpenter movies. I’d say the lead is Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), local DJ who broadcasts out of a lighthouse she owns. She ties the other characters together because they hear her voice and music wherever they go. She plays mostly old timey jazz, which makes for a good soundtrack and also can sound eerie when echoing tinnily in an empty room.

Then you have Nick Castle (Tom Atkins), a local driving home late at night who picks up a young hitchhiker named Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis). Think about this. Curtis as Laurie Strode, with her presumed virginity, was patient zero for the claim in SCREAM and other places that only a virgin can survive a horror movie. In this one her character gets picked up by an older stranger and is in bed with him within the hour. This is never implied to be a bad thing and they both survive and are heroic. Isn’t that what they call “sex positive”? And does a “sex positive” cancel out a “sex = death”? (I’m not good at math.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Deadly Obsession

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

tn_deadlyobsessionslashersearch15DEADLY OBSESSION is not the hidden gem I’m always looking for in a Slasher Search, but I suppose it deserves credit for seemingly trying copy other works in the stalker/slasher subgenre while also not really fitting the mold at all. So at least it’s different. Kind of.

The obsessed individual of the title is just credited as John Doe (Joe Paradise) and he’s an openly crazy maintenance man who gets yelled at for not doing his job. Instead of, you know, maintaining stuff he spends his shifts doing experiments on rats, then collecting their corpses neatly lined up in his refrigerator. He has a plot to poison ice cream as a way of extorting money from Gotham College president Brickley (or Brinkley according to IMDb, which informs me that actor William Klan also played “Interviewer” in THE TOXIC AVENGER). John Doe is extremely bitter about “rich brats” and always assumes that college students think they’re smarter than him. I mean just because he’s working class and because he plays with dead rats doesn’t mean he’s a dummy.

Also in my opinion John Doe from SEVEN is the same character. This is MANHUNTER to its SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cheerleader Camp

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

tn_cheerleadercampslashersearch15CHEERLEADER CAMP was supposed to be called BLOODY POM POMS, which makes more sense. The title the distributors chose doesn’t get across that it’s a horror movie. I’m sure they rejected a million titles that would’ve worked, too. SCREAM SPIRIT, SKIRTS OF BLOOD, GO SCREAM GO, GIMME AN AAAAAAGGGGGH, etc.

Anyway, it’s a pretty routine slasher movie that takes itself seriously but with some of the ’80s sex comedy stuff the title implies used as comic relief. A van full of cheerleaders head to Camp Hurrah for a cheerleading outing and competition, the two males are super horny and trying to get laid all the time, etc.

It’s kind of an A-Team of B-actresses. Betsy Russell (AVENGING ANGEL) plays Alison, sort of the protagonist and probable Final Girl because she keeps having symbolic nightmares about death and cheerleading, including ones where she gets slashed by razor sharp pom poms, and one where she joins the squad in cheering her boyfriend Brent (disco star Leif Garrett) as he has sex with Teri Weigel (MARKED FOR DEATH, PREDATOR 2, lots of porn). And then you have Lorie Griffin (TEEN WOLF), Rebecca Ferratti (GOR, GOR II, CYBORG 3, HARD VICE), and most importantly Lucinda Dickey (NINJA III: THE DOMINATION) plays Cory, the team mascot. She doesn’t really fit in and the bitchy camp director Miss Tipton (Vickie Benson, doing a broad Troma or John Waters type acting style like she’s in a different movie than the others) has it in for her, forcing her to wear her alligator mask while she eats.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Candyman

Monday, October 26th, 2015

candymanI’m still fond of my CANDYMAN review from almost exactly 10 years ago, but I’ve been wanting to go more in depth about its subtext, which I think is even more striking today. I know the character of Candyman is really well known, but honestly I don’t think the movie gets enough credit for how much it has to say. All these years later I think it might be the best horror movie of the ’90s.

So I decided to do a new piece on it for One Perfect Shot. I think it’s pretty good. Check it out and tell your friends. Click on this link five times in front of a mirror:

‘CANDYMAN’ AND THE RACIAL DIVIDE: WHY ONE OF THE BEST HORROR FILMS OF THE 90S IS EVEN MORE RELEVANT TODAY

Sweet Sixteen

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

tn_sweetsixteenslashersearch15“Now you listen to me, every one of ya, you listen damn close. Because if anybody in this town decides to take the law into their own hands, I’ll be on your ass like junebug on shit. I hope I make myself understood and pardon me ladies.”

SWEET SIXTEEN is a low budget 1983 slasher mystery shot in Texas. It seems promising at first because it has a certain level of filmmaking competence, an enjoyably corny theme balled called “Melissa,” sung by Frank Sparks, and a cool logo with a knife for a T.

That is not to say that it ever seems good. The aforementioned Melissa (Aleisa Shirley, SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE) is first seen during a long, sensuous, narratively (though not hygenically) gratuitous shower. From there we cut to a bunch of drunk rednecks (including Don Stroud) at a bar, play fighting and hugging their buddies until an elderly Native American man named Greyfeather (the final role of Henry Wilcoxon, CLEOPATRA, SAMSON AND DELILAH, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS) walks in. They immediately start racisting the shit out of him until young Native tough Jason Longshadow (Don Shanks, Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN 5) comes in to protect him with a knife.

Melissa, being the new girl in town, walks up to Longshadow in the parking lot and asks if he wants to “ditch the old man and go party.” As he bluntly rejects her a couple of the racists yell at him that he’s “into little girls.” He starts walking in their direction and they run away like they’re being chased by a bear. (read the rest of this shit…)

Moonstalker

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

tn_moonstalkerslashersearch15“Oh, it’s just a harmless old guy.”

Part of why I love the slasher movies is the ritualistic repetition. Familiar elements presented, hopefully, in new ways. It’s like open source movie making: here is a simple, accessible code, do with it what you want. Do try this at home.

Of course, the danger with that type of democratic process is that there are gonna be alot of bad ones made either naively or opportunistically by people unable to do a good job. And the deeper I get into Slasher Searching the more of these I’m gonna be left with.

MOONSTALKER is, surprisingly, on DVD. But it’s an amateurish Jason-with-a-touch-of-Leatherface knockoff movie; any variations on the formula seem accidental. It’s one of those movies where the very first shot makes you realize you’re in for a chore. Actually it’s not a bad P.O.V. shot of a killer spying on some campers, but there are people dancing next to a fire and it is very clear that this is not how they dance. This is what some crew members do when the director says “go dance next to the fire” and there’s no music playing and they’re kinda embarrassed and trying to be sarcastic. (read the rest of this shit…)