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Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Deliver Us From Evil

Thursday, June 11th, 2015
"You! Guy possessed by a demon! You're comin with me, pal!"
“You! Guy possessed by a demon! You’re comin with me, pal!”

DELIVER US FROM EVIL takes place in a horror movie Bronx. It’s all gloomy cinematography of wet streets at night, filthy, decrepit apartments, an ancient Latin invocation carved into walls or flesh. A malevolent demon monster or whatever is spookifying the place, so wherever our hero goes the power cuts out or the light bulbs burn out or they flicker like a strobelight (sometimes for an entire knife fight scene).

Also I think the filmatists are trying to play off of our primal fear of animals, so the Iraq War prologue features tarantulas, a snake and a bat. Another early scene involves a zoo with the animals loose (and lights out, of course) and the heroes get chased by a bunch of lions. Later a major piece of evidence is a security camera tape of a dude talking to a lion. And you got your usual cat scares like in all movies and also a crucified kitten and if you saw the trailer you’ll remember the scene of the hero’s daughter in bed at night getting spooked by her weird hooting owl doll. Sadly that James-Wan-esque scene climaxes with a jack-in-the-box with blood on its face. The ol’ evil clown standby. Boo.

still_deliverusfromevil
“At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi.”

Patrolling this world we have macho NYPD Sergeant Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana). He was raised Catholic, sure, but doesn’t believe in all that mumbo jumbo, etc. He’s renowned by his colleagues for catching a child killer with the first draft name “Marvin the Molester” and punching his face to death. He works too much his wife is pregnant she never sees him when he is home it’s like he’s not even there she never knows if she’s gonna get that call in the middle of the night he missed his daughter’s birthday she cried herself to sleep, all that. But somehow every case he gets connects to this weird supernatural thing with a mysterious guy who walks around acting scary with his Darth Maul hoodie up at all times even though he’s never in the numerous scenes where it’s pouring rain.

Sarchie also has a wiseass partner with seven deadly sins themed tattoos who carries two big knives that he uses to fight suspects instead of guns which in my opinion is not regulation. He’s played by Joel McHale from Community and the local Seattle sketch show that Bill Nye the Science Guy started on, Almost Live!. I know from an interview with director/co-writer Scott Derrickson that McHale has been his best friend for years and supposedly this character is more like the real him than anything he’s ever played. Apparently he really is obsessed with knives and maybe even wears a backwards baseball hat and sleeveless shirts all the time. Still, I had a hard time accepting the funny asshole guy from TV as this David Ayer type character, even when he tried to do an accent.

But he does wear an Alice in Chains t-shirt out of hometown pride so that’s good I think. (read the rest of this shit…)

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

tn_agwhaanA GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is being called “the first Iranian vampire spaghetti western,” but only the “vampire” part is strictly accurate. For one thing, it doesn’t have much in common with spaghetti westerns other than the setting of a barren, quiet town and a scene with some obvious Morricone-inspired music. As for the other part, it is true that the characters are all Iranian and the dialogue is in Persian, and it takes place in Iran. It’s interesting because it looks very different from how you expect the landscape of Iran to look, it will really change your idea of what that place is like. In my opinion that’s because it was filmed outside of Bakersfield, California, where Iranian-American writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour grew up.

So I think technically it’s an American movie made in America by Americans for American audiences, but obviously what I have described here is an uncommon cross-cultural mix, which does give the movie a certain flavor. And it needs that flavor, ’cause there’s not that much soup here.

The title refers to “The Girl” (Sheila Vand), a quiet, lonely young vampire woman who from some angles looks strikingly like Winona Ryder. She wears a striped shirt and a black veil, which cuts quite an image in the film’s nice black and white cinematographism by Lyle Vincent (Sesame Street: Elmo Visits the Doctor) as she spookily skulks in the shadows and follows people or just stands there watching them like a creep or a Michael Meyers or an it follows. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Babadook

Friday, April 17th, 2015

tn_babadookBABADOOK, BABADOOK, BABADOOK. Man, that’s all anybody talks about ever since this movie played the A, B or C Film Festival last year. At first I just ignored it, ’cause I thought it was some Howard Stern thing. But when I found out it was an Australian horror movie I knew that aligned with my interests.

It’s immediately captivating. It has a stylish look, kinetic editing and interesting faces on its two primary characters, the lonely widow Amelia (Essie Davis, who of course played Maggie in both MATRIX sequels [okay honestly I don’t remember who that character is]) and her weird little son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who’s about 7 years-old but is introduced testing powerful catapults and dart guns and talking about bashing a monster’s head in with a rock.

There’s some Sam Raimi-esque flourishes here and there, and it’s easy to picture a cutesy horror comedy where the kid goes Ash, saves Mom from a monster with home-made weapons and traps, furrows his brow and says some one-liner, charming the socks off the midnight film festival crowds and twentysomething writers for movie websights. And I would’ve been okay with that if it was done well, but I like that writer/director Jennifer Kent (you know, “Lab Lady” from BABE: PIG IN THE CITY) chose a less obvious path. (read the rest of this shit…)

It Follows

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

tn_itfollowsIT FOLLOWS seems to be the horror hit of the season, rightfully praised for its clever premise, excellent cast and effective indie drama type naturalism. As usual I don’t think it’s as bone-chillingly spookerific or as powerfully groundbreaking as the “I don’t normally like horror movies but this is the greatest horror movie of all time” crowd, but that’s okay. They picked a pretty good one to flip out over. And maybe my respect for it will go up if somebody can convince me that it’s as about something as it seems like it might be.

If you haven’t heard, the college age kids of IT FOLLOWS are experiencing a sexually transmitted haunting. You get it on with the wrong person, next thing you know you start seeing… something following you all the time. Sometimes it looks like a creepy stranger. Sometimes, from the looks of it, murder victims (previously followed people?). But sometimes it’s just some dude standing on the roof with his dick out. And then sometimes it’s your mom. It’s fucked up.

Wait a minute, what if they saw it and they thought it really was their mom? “Hey Mom, what are you doing out here? Did you get my text about the student lo–”

Our lead victim here is Jay, played by Maika Monroe, who was so good as the daughter in THE GUEST. She’s been seeing what seems like a nice enough boy (he takes her on a date to see CHARADE at an old timey movie house, at least) but after some of the old fashioned car sex he, uh, chloroforms her and ties her to a wheelchair and explains the rules to her. It follows, and you gotta run. You don’t want that thing to touch you. Or to jump your bones literally and/or figuratively, ’cause that’ll kill you. (read the rest of this shit…)

Joy Ride

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

tn_joyrideThat’s funny, back in 2001 Paul Walker seemed like a pretty boy teen star, a jock from VARSITY BLUES, so even though I always kinda liked him (and defended him from the savage hatred of the Ain’t It Cool talkbacks) he was probly the reason I didn’t take JOY RIDE entirely seriously, didn’t give it proper credit as a really solid thriller. I would’ve told you the movie was good, but I would’ve thrown a “ha ha, it’s actually” on front of that. Now I’m not as self conscious, and now Walker is the specific reason I’m giving it a long overdue re-watch. With his last movie coming out on Friday I thought it would be a good time to take a look at a few of his other roles in tribute.

See, he was a pretty boy, and he never did turn into an actor of great range. But here, in the same year he graduated to cop roles in THE FAST AND FURIOUS (which he probly got because Rob Cohen had directed him in THE SKULLS, and which came out about 3 months before this), he could also still play a youth. He turns his air of nice guy innocence toward a leading man role, which in this case is mostly about fear and problem-solving. How do we get the fuck out of here? How do we get this guy to leave us alone? Problems like that.

This is a road movie stalker like DUEL, ROAD GAMES or THE HITCHER, but for the SCREAM floating-head-poster era. Walker plays Lewis, a hopelessly smitten college kid driving cross country to get home during a break. Along the way he will pick up his high school friend/long distance crush Venna (THE WICKER MAN‘s Leelee Sobieski). But then he gets word that his fuckup older brother Fuller (Steve Zahn, A PERFECT GETAWAY) is in jail and nobody else feels sorry enough for him to get him out, so Lewis goes 500 miles out of his way to post bail. Don’t ever do that, the movie will soon teach us. (read the rest of this shit…)

Frankenstein’s Army

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

tn_frankensteinsarmyLooking to get a fake Stalin-era propaganda anthem stuck in your head forever? The FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY menu, opening and end credits are here to help! This low budget, high on practical effects English language Dutch-American-Czech production tells a simple story about a group of Soviet soldiers who encounter a Nazi scientist’s enclave of steampunk zombie cyborg monsters. And that’s about it.

Tbfh (to be frankly honest) I don’t really get this fascination with adding Nazis to zombies or aliens or mad scientists or whatever. I’m not against it, I just can’t really relate to the people that get so excited for IRON SKY or DEAD SNOW or whatever. I think maybe genre + swastika is shorthand for ’40s pulp aesthetic. And it seems like it’s usually these low budget grassroots people dealing with period detail and style that they can’t really pull off convincingly. This one does better than many I think, even if it has HELLBOY’s Karl Roden in it to remind you how not-fresh the Nazi/Russian/mad science triangle is.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Tusk

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

tn_tuskI don’t know how it happened but somehow I became the guy that’s more lenient on Kevin Smith movies than everybody else. Back in his hey day when he was a Miramax family member, an indie movement poster boy, a voice of a generation, a director of a movie in the Criterion Collection, a critical darling praised for his dialogue, I used to think he sucked. Here’s an overly harsh one I wrote back when people still seemed to like him (I advised readers not to make eye contact with people who recommend it to them). So I’m as confused as anybody that now that he’s widely hated and semi-retired I keep having an  “actually it’s not that bad” reaction to his “flicks,” as he calls them. COP OUT at least had a couple laughs, and his first horror movie, RED STATE, I actually thought was kinda good and now, I’ll be damned, I kinda liked TUSK too. What the hell?

TUSK is less consistent than RED STATE but a little more inspired in its absurdity. It continues the technique of coasting on an excellent performance by Michael Parks as a sadistic weirdo. This time he plays a retired Canadian proud of his life of rugged adventure and deranged, it turns out, by a long period of being stranded after a shipwreck. What’s that mean, that he had to go cannibal to survive, something like that? No, not quite. It means he got messed up by being isolated with only a walrus as his friend. He called him Mr. Tusk, according to his JAWS style monologue about the incident. And now he’s undergoing unusual measures to get that relationship back. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Midnight Meat Train

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

tn_mmt“Please, step away from the meat.”

Before THE HANGOVER made him a marquee name, and before he was nominated for Oscars three years in a row, Bradley Cooper was the star of THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2008). Sure, he’d already been in WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER and WEDDING CRASHERS and some TV shows, like he was on Alias and he played “Jack Bourdain” in Darren Star’s short-lived TV version of Kitchen Confidential. But come on. Obviously nobody cares about that shit and I’m embarrassed that I just typed it. He was, and is, the star of THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN.

Loosely based on a Clive Barker short story, this is a tale of city life. It’s about fears of late night public transit, of deserted subway platforms and cars, and our curiosity about the other odd people who are out late. The model in the fur coat, the teens selling candy bars at 2 am, most of all the dour, weathered bruiser in the suit and tie (Vinnie Jones, GARFIELD: A TAIL OF TWO KITTIES), always hunched over clutching his bag and looking miserable.

Leon (Bradley Cooper, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN) sees the guy and becomes obsessed with him. He follows him GHOST WORLD style, researches him, photographs him, dreams about him. Leon helps a lady escape from rapists, she goes missing that night, and he decides the man with the bag is involved. The more he investigates the creepier and crazier the whole thing seems. And he has a dream where he sees his own head on the guy’s body and it slits his throat and he sees his face reflected in the puddle of blood. You know, that old dream. (read the rest of this shit…)

Warlock

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

tn_warlockWARLOCK is a fun, simple movie about a warlock (Julian Sands) who, as he’s about to be inquisitioned to death in 1691, does a magic spell that transports him to 20th century Los Angeles. A storm accurately referred to as “The Devil’s Wind” literally blows him through the window into the home of Kassandra (Lori Singer) and her roommate. Naturally they figure he’s a drunk and let him spend the night. Talk about a racial double standard! If it was a black guy who flew through their window they’d be going for guns. And that wouldn’t have helped here but it would’ve been the right idea at least. Next thing you know the warlock is cutting out the roommate’s tongue and devouring his life essence.

Suddenly a dude wearing furs (Richard E. Grant) is in the house too. Kassandra screams, tries to get away, he punches her, she punches back. He’s talking nonsense, wants to know if the warlock bled in the house. She cuts open her vacuum bag to give him the glass shards for the window, then tries to get away. (read the rest of this shit…)

Don’t Open Till Christmas

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

tn_dontopenIn Victorian England there was a tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve. This is what gave us A Christmas Carol, of course, but is it a dead tradition otherwise? Well, I don’t know. There are an awful lot of Christmas-themed horror movies. There’s enough of ’em out there that I still haven’t seen nearly all of them. Maybe that’s what the ghost stories turned into over the years.

Or maybe SILENT NIGHT, DEADY NIGHT just reminded everybody that killer Santas are a fun idea. I don’t know. Anyway, this year I chose to watch a British one I didn’t know much about, DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS, released on DVD by the Mondo Macabro label (who usually put out things much crazier and more exotic than this).

This was made at the same time as SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (they both came out in winter of 1984), but it’s the reverse of a killer Santa movie. This is about a guy who goes around killing Santas! He’s unseen, face off camera, like a killer in a giallo. But in the American slasher tradition he’s a puritanical executioner. The Santas he kills are all doing something he apparently disapproves of: having sex, being drunk, going to see a stripper, throwing an awesome disco costume party, etc. (read the rest of this shit…)