31 October 2010

An Open Love Letter to Australia, or What I Thought About "Avatar" 3D

ARCHIVE from 12/24/09

Dear Australia,
I would like to thank you for what ever genetic operation you have going on down there. I understand that many attractive actors I consider Australian were in fact born elsewhere, usually England (hola Sam Worthington), I assume the air or the water in Perth or Brisbane or Melbourne is the cause of their good fortune. So, keep up the good work and keep sending them stateside.

Last night, a bunch of buddies and I went to see "Avatar" in 3D (not IMAX, I just can't spend $15 on a movie just yet. Sorry). I wasn't expecting much. Depending on who you read/trust, it was either cheesy/juvenile dialog/boring waste of 3 hours (reviewers) or the greatest thing since sliced bread (entertainers). I've gotta lean more towards "awesome", let me explain.

Was the dialog sometimes a bit over the top, cheesy even? Sure. Was the movie, and the creators of the movie, totally aware that was what they were doing? Absolutely. Show me a war movie that doesn't cash in on one cliche and I'll give you a nickle. On the same note, what SciFi movie isn't rife with absurd one-liners and winking glances? Not a one.

"Avatar" is a message film you don't mind, even if you don't agree with it's message (which would make you a war-mongering, anti-environment, racist). So... If you have been living in a cave, or simply hate movies (and therefore are probably not reading this entry), "Avatar" is about a joint military-science mission to Pandora, a plant rich with a fuel source we desperately need on Earth as we've used all of ours up. The problem is, Pandora is home to the Na'vi, a tribal culture who is not keen on the "skywalkers" making a muck of their planet. The whole thing is underlined with thoughts on god, life, religion, race. Humans can't breath the air on Pandora, so they've designed these Avatar's that look, move, are, just like the indigenous people. Through a bio-link, humans upload themselves into these creature shells and try to interact with the Na'vi.

Pretty standard story, you can imagine what happens, but you get sucked into the beauty of the world, the decent to great acting, and the overall joyful spirit of the movie.

Cameron has spent years trying to develop the technology needed to bring this story to life. He finally succeeded in what is the most brilliant 3D images I've ever seen. this new tech brings the whole picture to multi-dimensional life with out the bells and whistles usually reserved for 3D. rarely does anything leap out at you or go running right for you. It happens, but very organically, not for wow factor. It takes about 15-20 minutes for your eyes to totally adjust to the glasses (which is fine as the movie is 3 hours- side note: even I couldn't find where to make cuts. 3 hrs probably IS the edited time). The tech isn't perfect yet, objects moving faster than a walk tend to blur unnaturally and other objects that move too close to the camera get lost and actually take you out of the 3D experience, but that's not much of a criticism.

The way the trailer looked online/TV/2D lead to the bummed feeling I had going in. However, and there's a lovely quote from Worthington about this somewhere, the movie was meant to be seen in 3D, in IMAX, it doesn't translate well to your computer. I thought, like my friend Phillip, that the animated portions would look like an extended video game trailer. They don't. Period. However, this 3D only thing will become a big problem when DVD sales roll around, though we are supposed to have 3D HD televisions come spring (but I'm sure I won't be able to afford one). They'll have to sell the movie with multiple glasses and make spares available for purchase as well.
A big congrats to Stephen Lang for his Golden Globe nomination. I guess this proves you can be in an FX latent movie and get recognized. He did a great job, and it's only a shame some of the other actors weren't as well. It must be hard if your performance is entirely motion capture (Zoe Saldana) or at least majority (everyone else). Oh well... baby steps.

With that, I'm off. I hope you all enjoy your free day/holiday tomorrow. May I suggest you see Avatar 3D during the boredom that is Christmas afternoon? I will be at Sherlock Holmes. Here's hoping it isn't as rubbish as the reviews are making it out to be.

Don't Fast Forward- You Never Know What You're Missing!

ARCHIVE from 10/29/09
The other day, I got into a discussion with a friend about movie credits. Or, more specifically, that the opening credits to “Zombieland” are the greatest ever made (his stance). As a proud (and vain) cinephile, I was not about to concede this point without further investigation. Certainly, it is in the top 5, but #1? I’m not so sure. So, with a little investigation, I compiled my list of the top 5 movie opening credits and published them to my Facebook. I am expanding this list for you here, and encourage you to pay attention the next time your at the movies. Sometimes, what we’re shown before (or even after) the movie begins let’s us in on more information faster than we could perceive watching just the movie. Enjoy!!

In no particular order:

Zombieland- If you haven’t seen this movie (and really, come on! Get up and go right now. Or, better yet, wait til after you read this blog). Zombies run and attack and eat in slow motion while “For Whom the Bell Tolls” blasts out at us. Adding to the novelty of it all, the predator and the prey run through the written credits, scattering names and jobs to the wind.

Reservoir Dogs- My first thought for one of the best opening credit scenes. Perhaps made better by the scene which proceeds it (seriously guys, tip your waitresses), it is none the less iconic. Tarantino is god, but this is really his best credit sequence and the only time we aren’t given a simple scroll of names. Our Dogs walk away from the diner as K Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70’s and “Little Green Bag” play in the background. I have to tell you, I’m a big fan of credits (either opening or closing) giving us the name of the actor with a shot of their face. It’s nice to not have to run to IMDB when all I want to know is a name.

Juno- I had totally forgotten about this one until I started staring at my DVD collection. Our heroine travels from the mini-mart to home and in and out of an animated reality. The music by the Moldy Peaches works with instead of distracting from the film and cements Jason Reitman as a formidable peer of Wes Anderson and Tarantino for music choice.

Lord of War- I liked this movie and I don’t particularly care for Nic Cage (“Peggy Sue got Married” not withstanding). This sequence could have been renamed “The Secret Life of Bullets”. Super fun.

Seven- I remember being mesmerized sitting in the theatre watching these credits. What were we looking at? How was this significant? It only becomes clear as we progress through the movie. You feel uncomfortable watching it, and it perfectly sets the tone for the sepia hued film to follow. I also loved the music by Trent Reznor and the mix of typed and handwritten lettering for names and jobs.

The Pink Panther- Come on, who doesn’t love this? As famous for the music as the cartoon cat working his way in and out of trouble.

House of 1000 Corpses/The Devils Rejects- The opening bars of “The Sinister Urge” began to play and I got really excited. The buzz surrounding the movie before opening was that Rob Zombie was not using any of his own music in the film. Kind of a bummer if you ask me, so when that song started and the visual assault of grotesque and pornographic images played on screen- I knew I would not be disappointed. Not to be a one trick pony, Zombie’s sequel stayed true to its western outlaw/70’s exploitation roots. The Allman Brother’s “Midnight Rider” provide the soundtrack as we follow the escape of the Firefly family from the police, leaving a wake of damage and casualties behind them.

Raging Bull- Beautifully shot, stark black and white contrast, a slow-motion De Niro warming up in the ring: priceless.

The Watchmen- A complete history and field guide for the uninitiated set to the Dylan classic “The Times They Are A-Changing”.

Run Lola Run- Animated goings on of the movie we’re about to see, but it doesn’t detract, only enhances what’s to come.

Lock, Stock, and 2 Smoking Barrels- The opening credits of Guy Ritchie’s first film sum up everything you need to know about him, the movies he makes, and the characters. Slap dash black title cards interject a back-alley grafter doing business and running from the cops. A voice over introduces the characters who, in turn, get their own title cards.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail- Never seen it? Just look it up. I don’t want to ruin the surprise. While I’m at it, what do you mean you’ve never seen it? Were you raised in a cave? Some kind of hermit? Next you’ll ask me who this Monty guy is and I’ll be forced to slap you in the face with a fish.

Freeway- Sam the Sham’s “Little Red Riding Hood” plays to an animated Goldilocks who’s having none of it. Gotta say, I may be biased as I just love this song so much!!

Amelie- I heart Jean-Pierre Jeunet so much I could just spit. This movie marks a special place in my heart because it was the first time my mother sat through and LOVED one of his movies. They’re not really her bag, and that’s okay, but it’s nice to finally have something together. The music of Yann Teirsen is genius. Again, we get history and back story woven together with current events- the quirky humour that is Jeunet permeates this sequence.

Men in Black- Ah Danny Elfman, it’s like we’re kindred. This simple opening is too much like the other’s he’s scored to stand on his merits alone. No, it is the wandering fly, minding his own business until he meets the business end of a semi that gets me.

Okay, that’s probably enough for now. What did I miss?

Shocking, Detestable, Horrific, Loathsome, Revolting (and other words that don't describe my general movie going experience)

ARCHIVE
It takes a lot to shock me in movies these days. My boss was recounting a story about her 13-year old son to me yesterday. He tried to see “Paranormal Activity” but was turned away once he got to the theatre. Instead, he and his friends saw “The Stepfather”. He’s been having nightmares ever since. I couldn’t help but giggle. I loved scary movies! Sure, when I was 13 there were a lot of things that scared me. I never learned my lesson and as a result had a lot of nightmares. (Sorry Mom and Dad). However, they were also supernatural in nature- dolls come to life, tiny demons stealing my breath, something wicked in the closet or under the bed. Human killers didn’t bother me at all.

So I laughed and said the line that opened this post. She replied, “Based on the kind of movies you rent, I’m not surprised!”

You see, I’d recently recounted the premise of “Blood Car” (please don’t see it), about a car that runs on human blood some how, and the bumbling government spooks watching it all go down. Sounds promising right? That’s what I thought! Here’s a sample dialogue:
“What’s he up to?”
“Well, he just killed two people.”
“Okay. Keep an eye on him.”

Seriously? God bless Netflix for having an outlet to what I hoped was student work (it wasn’t), but there should really be a warning. Perhaps you’re thinking, “They do warn you. They rate all the movies. The estimate what you would rate it!” That’s well and good for most movies, but it fails to take into account the movies that are so bad they’re good.
[side note: It received a 2.7. Hardly an indication of bad or good]

But, I digress… Back to my point- shocking me. It takes a lot. I was the girl who fell asleep during “Hostel”, mind you. (Loved part two though). I watch “Un Chien Andalou” (IFC’s #1 scary-non-horror movie) and never cringe. Give me what you got, your best shot! Get Greg Nicotero and Tom Savini together and we’ll have a great time (I think I just came a little thinking about that mash-up), but I’m still not going to be shocked or really scared. The last time I remember being scared was watching “The Strangers”, and that was only because the wind almost blew the door in and things kept tapping against the glass. Seriously, watch it next time it storms- totally different experience.

Now, it’s reality that scares me, not monsters. As we grow up, the demons and witches and ghouls are replaced with sadistic Hitchcockian killers; people who smile as they wipe your blood from their face. I feel it, it’s scary, but is it shocking? Not yet.

When was the last time? Maybe “Blood Car” should count even if it was just shockingly bad! Okay, now I’m going to have to say more about this movie. Synopsis: Vegan loser schoolteacher (who wears homemade t-shirts with vegan dogma slogans embroidered on them to work. In what universe is that appropriate work attire?), tries to invent a car that runs on wheat grass be buys from Anna Chlumsky (oh yea) at a “Peanuts”-esque tofu stand in the middle of a parking lot. It doesn’t work, surprise, until he cuts himself and a little of his blood mixes with the grass and VOILA!
Chlumsky's in love with him, but he only has eyes for the girl who sells meat in an equally ridiculous cardboard stand across from Anna's. (Uh huh). So, why does the car suddenly run on blood? How does installing a propeller in the trunk to slice up bodies get the blood in the tank? Doesn't this car smell? In the end, spoiler alert (as if that's even possible), the government guys make him president of his own country. (yep). It's bad when the Troma looks like Miramax in comparison.

Okay, so there was another tangent. Seriously though, when was the last time I saw something shocking? I've got a couple in my queue that may do it, including "Cannibal" based on the true story of the German guys who found someone to eat, literally, on Craigslist; and "In the Skin" about a girl who likes to self mutilate, a lot. Maybe I'll have something to report.

Maybe I'm just desensitized. Is that a bad thing? Some politico's would have you believe it is. I'm not very good with empathy, but I can certainly feel pity. I understand right from wrong. I don't want to emulate anything I've seen on TV or the movies (again, thanks to the folks). What's so bad about desensitizing America?

26 October 2010

Under the Boardwalk

If you have HBO or if, like me, you have a lovely friend with it who allows you to come over and stare at the TV for a couple hours; then I hope to god you are watching "Boardwalk Empire". Created by Martin Scorsese and Terrence Winter ("The Sopranos"), it's a sweeping epic about the birth of the American gangster and the struggle and sometimes luxury of Atlantic City at the dawn of Prohibition. Whatever you think you know about smuggling and gangsters, this show will school you. It's also nice to see the way "the other half" lived life then. We never see or hear about the average Joe or Jane just trying to make ends meat and succeed where their parents failed.

At the heart of the show is Steve Buscemi's "Nucky" Thompson, AC's greedy and nasty county treasurer. If it's illegal, he's got his thumb in it. As one of the characters said, "He doesn't just have his thumb in it, he's got his whole hand messy". It should come as no surprise that Buscemi lends a depth to Thompson that could not have been found on the page. He is at once vile, greedy, mean spirited, loving, caring, naive, dis-enchanted, and strong. His main concern is looking out for #1, and why shouldn't it be? In a town where anyone can get gotten to, it's important to limit your friendships and keep your eyes peeled.

The antithesis to Nucky is Kelly MacDonald's Margaret Schroeder, an Irish immigrant married to a lush of a man and stuck raising 2 kids on pennies a day. She meets and forms a relationship with Thompson that is still not fully explained. What is it about "that Schroeder woman" that get all the men riled up?

Great performances and writing abound. The cast of secondary characters reads like a who's who of Hollywood and independent cinema: Michael Shannon ("Revolutionary Road") is the Prohibition Agent with as many secrets as the bad guys, Michael Stuhlbarg ("A Serious Man") is an up and comer in the New York crime syndicate,  Paz de la Huerta is Nucky's main squeeze and former 2-bit dance hall girl, Aleksa Palladino ("Find Me Guilty", "Manny & Lo") is Michael Pitt's common law wife (see rant below), Shea Whigham ("Tigerland", "Wristcutters: A Love Story") is Nucky's brother and chief of police (a job he hoped would get him more respect), Vincent Piazza ("Rescue Me" TV) is young Lucky Luciano before the name meant anything, and in a hopefully Emmy and Golden Globe winning performance is Stephen Graham ("Public Enemies") as Al Capone. He is scary to watch.

I only hope HBO doesn't lose their stomach and realize just how much this might be costing them as they did with "Rome" and "Deadwood". Hopefully with producers like Scorsese, Winters, and Mark Wahlberg (yep, Marky Mark); they can hold out to tell an amazing story that needs telling.

What's made me a bit obsessed is Michael Pitt as Jimmy Darmody, a war vet and aspiring thug who was protected by Nucky until he went too far. Now, he's hanging out in Chicago with Capone (not a good idea) and getting himself further and further into a life of crime. He is simply mesmerizing and it reminded me of all the amazing performances he has turned in over what is already a full career at 29. A few of my favorites:


The Dreamers (2003)
Bernardo Bertolucci's films always have a sense of realism to them as opposed to fantasy. The camera angles, the lighting, the sets. Even when the language is "classic", the feelings evoked are true to any you or I might feel in a lifetime. An American studying in Paris (Michael Pitt), meets and falls in love with a bohemian brother sister duo (Louis Garrel and Eva Green). The Dreamers doesn't set out to shock, if anything the casual attitude toward nudity and the taboo seem almost normal. I particularly love a scene where Matthew (Pitt) is embarrassed to change clothes in front of Theo (Garrel). It is the turning point to the movie: the naive American intrigued and embarrassed by the mature French. All too soon, the roles will reverse and the film will come full circle. In the "making of" doc, Bertolucci talks about bringing the modern to the past. Inter-cutting clips of the original film clips the trio were impersonating such as Godard's "Jules et Jim", as well as the news reels with shots of demonstrations showing the speakers who are now playing themselves in the movie is genius! This movie is NC-17 for full frontal male and female nudity. If that upsets you, don't rent (and buck up!). If you're not bothered, this is one to add to the queue.

Funny Games (2007)- Michael Haneke's English adaptation of his own film hit American audiences hard and left a lasting impression on those who saw the film. Whether you liked it or not, you were going to talk about it. While on vacation at their lake house, a young family (Tim Roth- always love, Naomi Watts- please keep doing stuff like this) and their sun are taken hostage by the young guests of their neighbor. Pitt and Brady Corbet (also amazing in Gregg Araki's "Mysterious Skin") are the young tormentors who want to play a game with the family- Can they survive until morning? Sadistic and horrifying, the young tormentors represent not only an American fear of strangers and reluctance towards kindness but a world fear. The original Austrian film is the same almost frame by frame. Why then did I love this remake when the shot for shot Gus Van Sant remake of "Psycho" had me calling for blood (pun definitely intended)? Because here Haneke has his say, making his film, his way, with the twist of making it more commercial for American audiences. The themes and technique of the film warrant a wider audience and I think he was smart to tackle it himself. Better the original writer and director than some punk from Hollywood.

Not for the faint of heart. Stephen King named it his 5th favorite film of the year, and regardless of how you feel about his books or movies; the man knows pop culture.

Last Days (2005)- I hated this movie. Seriously want to punch Gus Van Sant in the throat. His work has become a caricature of what it once was and the man who so brilliantly represented young adult hood is now middle aged and out of touch. It's that I can see the work that makes me angry; it is not longer effortless. Still, Pitts performance as Kurt Cobain in a fictionalized account of his final days is riveting. He commands the silence and offers a natural performance in a movie that wants desperately to be art.

Murder by Numbers (2002)- This was on TV the other day and I totally forgot how much I liked it despite the fact that I own it! Barbet Schroeder ("Single White Female", "Barfly") directs Sandra Bullock is a tough as nails detective who must match wits with a pair of genius, young psychopaths. Ryan Gossling (straight off his tour de force performance in "The Believer") is the mastermind behind the perfect crime who enlists Pitt as his sidekick. Another film about violence for violence sake, it reserves judgement for the audience to make. Any fan of "Law & Order", "CSI", or forensics will see the brilliance in the duos attempt at committing the perfect crime. Is it possible? What elements must be present to achieve it? Can a depressed detective and her new partner (Ben Chapman- Where has he been?) gather the evidence they need to arrest the wealthy kids thumbing their nose at authority?

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)-  Hansel falls in love with American GI Luther and they want to get married. Problem is, gay marriage is not recognized in communist Germany so Hansel becomes Hedwig but the surgery is botched and she is left alone. Pitt stars as Tommy Gnosis, a quiet Christian teen, who befriends Hedwig and forms a band. Eventually he leaves her, as everyone does, to become a star in his own right with the songs he's stolen from Hedwig. I'm beginning to sense a pattern here. The songs are fun and if you get the chance to attend a midnight screening, I highly recommend it.

22 October 2010

Fright Fest: The Final Frontier

I freely admit, I am horrible with sub-dividing larger categories. On the other hand, I can't seem to stop trying. Ask me my favorite movie and I immediately want to divide the category. How can anyone pick just one? It's hard enough picking my favorite horror movie (as evident by this list). When I start separating, there are always a few left over that I can't decide where they fall. What the heck am I supposed to do then? Make a miscellaneous category I guess.


"Night of the Comet" - After a comet passes the Earth disintegrating the population or turning them into zombies; it's up to a pair of Valley girls to stay alive and stay away from the scientists who want to discover why they're alive.

Oh man, this movie is both horrible and amazing. It's super 80s in all the best ways, but the tension in the film is real. I read a lot of reviews about this movie that made it sound like the filmmaker was purposefully making  a mock-horror movie or farce. I don't think that's the case. I think it was meant to be serious, it kind of is, and not a big joke. It's hard to tell with movies from this time period though. I mean, someone though Leprechaun was going to be a good scary movie. Instead, it's hilarious. Now, they're aware and make comedies.


"Black Circle Boys" - The new kid in school (Scott Bairstow) meets the wild Black Circle Boys lead by Eric Mabius. They're into the occult and drugs and all the other things outsiders in films are supposed to like. Soon, Bairstow realizes he's in over his head but, will the Boys let him walk away?

Disclaimer #1: I rented this movie solely because Eric Mabius was in it and I heart him. Then, he kept popping up in movies and TV and I didn't know what to do with myself. This was the crazy goth rocker I loved in this movie! What the frak is he doing on "Ugly Betty". Anyway, Disclaimer #2: Donnie Wahlberg is in it and he will not annoy you. When did he start to think he was the next Marky Mark? Oh yea...

I love these kinds of movies where teens get sucked into a life of the occult and devil worship. It's hilarious and I wonder where these kids went to school. Probably the same places that have huge school dances that cost thousands of dollars and big house parties with kegs and a bar but no parents or police. Maybe they break out into song or spontaneously choreographed dance number. I'm pretty sure these places only exist in movies and the Lifetime channel.


"The Witches" - Nicolas Roeg ("The Man Who Fell to Earth"- rent it. Seriously) directs this adaptation of Roald Dahl's book. When a young boy goes on vacation with his grandmother, they never thought they would be sharing their hotel with a witches convention. To make matters worse, the Grand Witch (Anjelica Huston- divine) and her cronies hate children and want to turn them all into mice.

I saw this movie when it came out and fell in love. There's something about Dahl and his work that speaks to both children and adults. Perhaps it's that he doesn't talk down to children or white wash events. His books are often scary but they always end with a high moral center. Therefore, this movie is great for people my age who grew up with this movie to watch it again, those with kids, and even adults who have never seen it before. It is a bit dated, but eventually you won't even notice.


"Plan 9 From Outer Space" - Ed Wood, Jr follows up "Glen or Glenda" [side note: I saw it on PBS once and had no idea what I stumbled upon. It was wonderful!] with this tale about a group of aliens who have burned through plans 1-8 of Earth takeover. That just leaves plan 9: turn humans into zombies and vampires.

Okay, so maybe this is the "worst movie of all time" or maybe it's genius. I can't decide. I saw this after I saw Tim Burton's "Ed Wood" so maybe I'm biased. You have to admire a man who kept pushing at his dream no matter how little he had or how hard they pushed him down. This is no award winner but it's not as bad as some may have you believe. I love it.


"Return of the Living Dead III" - When Julie is killed, her boyfriend Curt takes her body to his father's military lab and brings her back to life. Now the love birds are on the run from the military and a biker gang. How will their undead love survive?!

Melinda Clarke ("The Vampire Diaries", "The OC") is Julie and I totally forgot that fact until I looked this movie up for this list. How funny! She gets all goth/punk pierced chick about half way through. I love seeing how people got their start. "Living Dead 3" is my favorite sequel to the original. It's hilarious and kind of forgets it's a zombie horror movie. Instead it plays like a love story with gore. Is there any better kind?


"Jaws" - If you haven't seen this movie you should hit yourself in the face. A giant great white shark shows up off the coast of New England and begins to eat people. Bill Butler's cinematography and John Williams score are high points in an already amazing film.

I debated putting this movie on the list. I don't consider it a horror movie but everyone else seems to. I understand that when it came out it scared the bejeezus


"The House of Usher" - I love Edgar Allan Poe. Who doesn't that ever considered themselves an outsider? Adapted from one of my favorite stories. When Philip arrives at Usher Manor to propose to Madeline, he discovers she is deathly ill and her brother not far behind her. Philip attempts to wait it out, until the Usher curse begins to lose control.

Vincent Price is amazing (was there any doubt) as the eldest Usher, as is Myrna Fahey as his sister. I just love seeing him so young. Mark Damon (Philip) went on to act in several other horror films, but made a real name for himself as a producer with such works as "Das Boot", "Monster", and "The Lost Boys".


"Ghost Hunters" (TV) - By day, the founders of TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) are Roto Rooter plumbers but by night, they investigate claims of hauntings all across the Northeast and now the country. Available on DVD and on Syfy Wednesdays.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, you will enjoy this show about paranormal investigators. I also believe it to be the best reality based ghost show on TV today. The cast is personable and professional. It seems I've been talking about this show a lot recently. Several of my friends don't watch it because they either believe it will be scary (it certainly can be) or they think it a joke. The most important distinction between this show and it's copy cats is that they set out first to debunk, then to prove. It's always a bit sad when they have to tell a home owner that their house isn't haunted, they just need new plumbing or foundation. On the other hand, when they capture actual evidence of a haunting it's enough to give you goosebumps. Anytime they're at a lighthouse, you are sure to be in for a treat. At one location, a chair moved across the room on its own. At one of the they investigate, a shadow figure materializes out of the floor, runs towards camera, then disappears. I can't even go into what happens at the legendary Stanley Hotel (made famous in "The Shining"). Just trust me and watch it.

21 October 2010

Fright Fest: Now in Black & White

What makes something a classic? Does it have to be old? How old? Is is just insanely popular? What about cult classics then? I choose to define a classic movie as one that has stood the test of time (so, probably at least 10 years old), that I can watch over and over (no easy task), and that is popular with more people than just myself. What makes a classic for you?


"Rosemary's Baby" - A young couple move into a new apartment (The Dakota, lucky bastards!) where they are surrounded by odd neighbors. Mia Farrow (Rosemary) begins to get paranoid (as women are want to do in a Polanski film) and it turns out she may very well have right to be.

The big argument now is: Is there ever a time when a celebrities personal life will influence their professional? I'm sure there are people who won't watch a Polanski film because of who he is. That's their prerogative. Me, I'm not sure I care. It certainly doesn't mean the movie is suddenly going to be bad. Polanski is certainly one of the most prolific auteur's working in film today. So, does it matter? "Rosemary's Baby" is a well crafted movie and adaptation of Ira Levin's book. It's creepy and well shot and acted. It's a great film!


"Them!" - New Mexico was home to early atomic testing. They thought they had taken every precaution, but they forgot one thing- ants. Now 1,000 times their usual size, these man-eating ants threaten to take over the world. Can they be stopped?

This has been one of my favorite movies since I was a kid. My Dad sat me down to watch it once when it came on TV and I was mesmerized. Growing up in Texas, I had a healthy fear of ants. Ants kill people here. At the very least, they can bite you a million time and you'll wish for death. The idea that these very same ants could become giant-sized and terrorize the city is terrifying!

"Five Million Years to Earth" - When the crew working on expanding London's subway system uncover a secret room complete with alien spaceship, Professor Quartermass and his team to investigate. Where did the ship come from? What happened to the aliens? What of the prehistoric humanoid skeleton found with the wreckage? This movie will have you guessing to the end.

AKA "Quartermass and the Pit", you have to be careful when looking for this movie that you get the 1967 film version and not one of the others made for TV. I stumbled across this movie one day on TV (god bless TCM and AMC). It's a great mix of what Hammer Film's was most famous for (slightly schlocky B-movies) and "legitimate" movie making. I heart Hammer and his American counterpart Roger Corman so much!


"The Exorcist" - William Friedkin direct's Willaim Blatty's adaptation of his own work in this stunning film from 1973. Regan (Linda Blair) is your typical teenager until the day she becomes possessed by a demon. Her mother (the always stunning Ellen Burstyn) calls on the help of Father Merrin (equally amazing Max von Sydow) to perform the exorcism.

Duh. Of course "The Exorcist" is on my list. It's still scary, period. Don't watch it on TV. For the longest time that was the only way I had seen it and I didn't understand some of the controversy. Of course TBS isn't going to show Blair's painful masturbatory scene, or say the "C" word, or much of anything else interesting. I later wrote a paper about this movie for a film class in college. Any movie that can cause the audience to vomit, pass out, or have a heart attack (that may not have been the movie, just unlucky) is a-okay in my book. Love. LOVE!


"Poltergeist" - Hip parents Craig T. Nelson and Jo Beth Williams move their clan into a brand new home in the subdivision Nelson helped design. Little do they know it's haunted and the ghosts only have one thing on their minds- Carol Anne, the youngest child. In come a group of paranormal investigators (and the wonderful Zelda Rubinstein) to try and get Carol Anne back once she has been sucked into another dimension.

I've mentioned seeing many of these movies when I was a kid. I assure you I had good (yet awesome) parents, they just based their treatment of such things based on our maturity not our age. My mother's only concern was gratuitous violence (doesn't count war movies. Thanks "Glory"). Sex, drugs, rock and roll were all fine by her book. Made for some uncomfortable family movie nights, but I'm grateful for it now. Of course, she worked and had no idea what we watched during the day. Sorry mom! She certainly knew how much I loved this film and it was probably my favorite scary movie growing up. I used to quote it incessantly and still do. "Walk into the light children! All are welcome in the light!"

"Poltergeist" is also famous for it's curse- 6 cast members have died since making this movie. Dominique Dunne (the sister) was strangled by a jealous boyfriend, Julian Beck (Kane in the 2nd film) died of cancer, Will Sampson (medicine man in the 2nd film) died of post-op kidney failure, and Heather O'Rourke (the star of the films) died from septic shock.

"White Zombie" - Though not as famous as the man who named his band after it, it is still famous for being the first zombie movie. Starring Bela Lugosi as an evil witch doctor who transforms a young woman into a zombie in order to lure her away from her boyfriend. Symbolism abounds in this classic Universal film.

I'd heard of this movie but hadn't seen it until fairly recently when it was given to me at a company white elephant party. Anything with Lugosi is going to be good and Madge Bellamy (vegetarian Texan!!) was an "aging" silent movie star trying to get back into pictures. Not scary, but amazing to see how far the zombie genre has come. It's also a great movie to debate!


"The Innocents" - A young governess (Deborah Kerr- "The King and I") becomes convinced the house she works at is haunted, and what's worse; the ghosts are after her two young charges.

It drives me crazy. I saw this movie on TV when I was home sick once in junior high, though it was called "Turn of the Screw" (after the Henry James book it is based upon). When I went looking for it later this version was all I could find that look remotely like the movie I had seen. Of course, it had been many years and I remember the book much more than the movie. It is after all, my favorite book of all time. Anyway, it's a great ghost story and psychological story. More debating over the hysterical woman archetype is sure to result from repeat viewings.


"Evil Dead 2" - Sam Raimi's remake of his own film 6 years later benefits from more money and slightly more experience. A group of friends head out to the woods to relax and do whatever it is young people do in a cabin; when they are attacked by demons. More funny than scary, it knows just how ridiculous it is and revels in it.

I don't care if this makes me unpopular, I liked #2 better than the original "Evil Dead". I mean come on! A tree rapes a woman for christ sake. How is that not creative and awesome? You should just watch the whole trilogy (includes "Evil Dead" and "Army of Darkness") and call it a day.

See Also: Bell, Book, and Candle; Psycho, Dracula (1931), Repulsion, any Hammer Studio's anthology,  The Wasp Woman, Earth vs The Flying Saucer, Forbidden Planet, Nightmare on Elm Street, Last House on the Left, Halloween,

18 October 2010

Fright Fest: Cue Inappropriate Laughter

 Amidst the gore, violence, and screams of terror; it's nice to take a break an laugh a little. It's even better when you can laugh at something that resembles a horror movie already. There have certainly been times when I just didn't want to go to sleep after watching something scary or sick. Not that I was scared necessarily, though I am woman enough to say that could sometimes be the case, but because I know I'll sleep better after something a bit light hearted. So, what do you watch when you want to laugh your ass off during Halloween?  



"The Addams Family" - Based on Charles Addams beloved comic, a family of con artists try to grift the titular family into thinking their son is the long lost Uncle Fester. Little are they prepared for the level of weirdness that ensues. Favorite line: "Are your Girl Scout cookies made with real Girl Scouts?"

I remember watching this movie in the front row when it came out. At the time, the front row was THE place to be. Man I was an idiot. Regardless, I grew up reading these comics and we had several of Addams' books around the house. My sister and I wanted to be Wednesday when we grew up, either her or Lydia Deetz. I'm sure everyone has seen this movie, but hasn't it been a long time? Don't you think it deserves another viewing?


"Innocent Blood" - Marie is a vampire trying to live her life when one of her meals gets her in trouble with the law. She teams up with the lead detective to track down her little accident and keep her secret safe.

What more do you need in a movie? Comedy, a bit of gore, boobs (for those of you who are fans), and John Landis. I've been a fan of Anne Parillaud since "Le Femme Nikita" and Anthony LaPaglia since "So, I Married an Axe Murderer". Also, when Landis does horror it is always so enjoyable. There's plenty of blood and ripped throats to go with all the great one-liners.

[side note: Watch "So, I Married an Axe Murderer" again. Love! "Woman, whoa man. Whoa man. She was a thief, you gotta belief. She stole my heart and my cat"]

"Serial Mom" - A typical suburban mom takes matters into her own hands in defense of her family. No slight is too small for her to wreck vengeance!

It was about time for John Waters to take on the serial killer craze, and take it on he did. There's something deeply satisfying with watching Kathleen Turner stab some dope with a pair of shears. This is another movie about a woman standing up for her family and although savage violence may not always be the answer, it's refreshing to see a family that actually gets along and seems to like one another. I guess the family that kills together, stays together. Not for those who find Mr. Waters work crude or depraved of course. Of course, those types of people would not read my blog or be friends with me.

"Psycho Beach Party" - "Six Feet Under" star Lauren Ambrose stars in this "Gidget" spoof. She's the first girl accepted into the Malibu surf club, but she has a problem. She has multiple personality disorder. When her friends start showing up dead, she worries she might have something to do with it.

This movie is seriously, stupid fun. I used to love the Frankie Avalon/Annet Funicello movies and to see them re-imagined as a murder mystery party is pretty cool. There are a bunch of people in this film including Thomas Gibson, nicholas Brendon, Amy Adams, Kathleen Robertson (where has she been?), and Charles Busche (writer and famous cross dresser).


"The 'Burbs" - Tom Hanks is convinced his new neighbors are some sort of satanic cult and sets out to investigate.

Director Joe Dante is one of the masters of B-horror, having directed "Piranha", "The Howling", "Amazon Women on the Moon", and "Gremlins". He also made one of my favorite comedy/Sci-fi movies "Innerspace". Here, he gets to show us what he's really made of with a film that purposefully thumbs its nose at his earlier work. Hanks, Bruce Dern, and Carrie Fisher are hilarious as some of the other neighbors, but it's the late Henry Gibson that really shines as the head of the Klopek clan.

"Killer Klowns From Outer Space" - Possibly the greatest bad movie ever made! The plot is pretty self evident from the title: Killer clowns land on Earth and begin abducting people to take back to their big top space ship for food.

How is this movie not shown at more midnight screenings? I love their little popcorn babies they shoot at their victims and the big cotton candy cocoons they wrap you in before sucking out your juices through huge bendy straws. Director Stephen Chiodo went on to a successful career in stop-motion animation and puppeteering in such films as "Elf", "Team America World Police", as well as creating the diorama's for "Dinner for Schmuck's" (which I haven't seen but heard they were the only good thing about that movie). Pretty impressive. This is a must see for all movie lovers.


"Splatter Farm" & "Motel Hell" Double Feature- In "Splatter Farm", brothers visit their aunt at her farm only to discover what they're actually harvesting is human parts. In "Motel Hell", the manager kidnaps his guests, buries them in the ground to fatten them up, then serves them as his famous fritters. Very "Delicatessen"-esque.

Cheese galore in both pics! They're so silly yet you can't stop watching them. I caught "Motel" late one night on TV and it was so disturbing. Then I was disturbed that something so silly disturbed me. Maybe that's not the right word for it... It's like a Troma movie without the money. They know it's silly and they don't care.


"Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter" - I change my mind. This is the worst movie of all time that you have to see to believe. Jesus comes back to Earth to take down the vampire community with his amazing kung-fu skills and the help of Mary Magnum and nacho libre El Santos.

I don't want to ruin this for anyone as it wasn't ruined for me. My friend called, told me the title, and that was all. I do suggest several drinks beforehand and during.

Finally, I just watched "Suck" which I've been waiting to become available on Netflix ever since I saw a trailer for it on /film. I was worried for a bit when it first started, but then I laughed out loud several times and proclaim it Destined to be a Cult Classic!

Down on his luck Joey and his band (The Winners, "it's ironic") are languishing playing empty clubs and getting no hits to their website. When the only female member Jennifer (congrats Jessica Pare on "Mad Men". I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you!) is bitten by a vampire, their popularity soars and so does the body count. Malcolm McDowell co-stars as vigilante vampire hunter Eddie Van Helsing.

This movie is a who's who of guest stars. Everyone from Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Henry Rollins, Moby (I didn't even recognize him), Dimitri Coats, and more turn up in this pic. The making of doc is mostly the above talking about music and why they were in this movie for 45 minutes. I would have liked a bit more behind the scenes and less interviews with the cameos.

What better couple than rock music and vampires? What's better is the movie is actually funny. It plays like how I imagine my friend's and I would act if we discovered one of us was a vampire. Jack of all trades Rob Stefaniuk looks like a somber Jamie Kennedy but thankfully without his tone. His songs are ironic and while not exactly rockin', are still pretty impressive. I kind of wish there were more singing. We get teased with it towards the beginning when Coats master vampire breaks into song while seducing Pare and I thought, "Hell yea! Another 'Rocky Horror!'" Instead the only other songs happened at the bands gigs. I think that was a bit of a missed opportunity.

I am buying this movie immediately and hope I can figure out a way to screen it for my friends in my own Elvira style Midnight Movie Madness!

Fright Fest: Parlez-vous horreur Psychologique?

Yesterday I mentioned my fear of dolls when I was a child. I've out grown it (to some extent; adults with china dolls is odd) and upgraded to more reality based fears. The ghoul under the bed has been replaced by an intruder, dolls replaced with ghosts, and people as predator. The human condition and psyche scares me a hell of a lot more than Pinhead (though don't tell him that on the safe side). With adulthood also comes a deepening respect for films outside the English language. I always liked foreign films, I was raised in a household that believed that to be important, so I never had to overcome the hurdles that others find difficult to leap over. Reading subtitles is second nature to me and I could wax poetic about the films that get it right and those that get it wrong. I love the intimacy in foreign films, how they push boundaries and discuss complex and often controversial topics. I love how quiet they are.

So without further adieu, my list of the best foreign and psychological films for you this Halloween:

Foreign:


"Pan's Labrynth" - I swear, I had no idea how often some people would show up on this list! Guillermo del Toro is at it again with this deeply moving and disturbing film about a young girl living in war torn Spain with her mother and evil stepfather. While exploring her new home, she discovers a labyrinth and befriends the mysterious Pan. You'll never guess how this all plays out.

True story: I have a bit of a problem with laughing at inopportune times at the movies, this being one of them. I saw this in a small packed theatre with a bunch of friends. I will admit to laughing out loud at one scene but that just seemed to make the guy behind me think this was acceptable behaviour. Every time he laughed, I got shushed! I swear I only did it once. That being said, this is the kind of movie people either love or hate. For me, it's a beautifully twisted fairy tale reminiscent of the ones my father told me as a child. Oddly enough, he hopes to never see it again as the ending bothered him. I can see why, but for the same reasons he hated it I loved it. To each his own.

"Mother of Tears" - The final installment of Italian horror mastermind Dario Argento's Three Mothers trilogy ("Suspiria", "Inferno") ends when an American art student (Asia Argento, daughter) opens an ancient urn that unleashes the Mother of Tears, a powerful and vengeful witch, onto the people of Rome.

Argento makes some of the most interesting and confusing films I've ever seen. They're almost like a train wreck- I have no idea what's going on half the time but I can't look away. Maybe it has something to do with the awful dubbing that his films have when released in the US. I want subtitles people! Of course, how are you going to pass Asia as American when she couldn't lose her accent if you paid her (and they have) or threatened to feed her to a ravenous bear. Still, who cares? That's not what his movies are about. They're about the power of persuasion, mythology, the fragility of women, and blood, and guts, and boobs. If you are not already a fan of B-movies (don't tell me because then we can't be friends) or dubbed films, skip his body of work, educate yourself, learn to like it, then rent them. Otherwise, a great weekend could be spent with these tales of a mother's love that only an Italian could make.


"Night Watch" & "Day Watch" Double Feature- The powers of good and evil try to win a war that's been waging for centuries. The Night Watch are a group of "Others" that patrol and monitor the Day Watch. One are light/good and the other dark/bad, however the lines between the two are often blurred even as alliances are not. Witches, vampires, shape shifters, psychics, ancient prophecies, oh my!

Based on the popular book series by Sergei Lukyanenko and helmed by Timur Bekmambetov ("Wanted"), this duo are the highest grossing films in Russian history. That may not sound impressive to you, but one viewing and you will be converted. It's depressing actually, to see what can be done in a fledgling film community with a fraction of the dollars we typically spend on FX heavy films. Things I love: it's a great companion to the books (both films are based off the 1st book, "Night Watch"), the FX are amazing and crucial to the storytelling, the acting is great, both the subtitles and dubbing are done in house by Bekmambetov so you know they are top notch. I suggest watching the subtitled version first- the captions scroll across the screen, slide from top to bottom, and generally go where your eye needs to be. You never lose any of the action! What I don't like: Bekmambetov says "Wanted" tapped him out for ideas he would have used on the 3rd and final film ("Twilight Watch"), leaving a gaping hole in the hearts of fans. Get to it Timur!!

"Cold Prey" & "Dead Snow" Double Feature- "Cold Prey" is a tight Norwegian thriller about a group of extreme sports enthusiasts/med students who get trapped in an abandoned hotel after one of them breaks their leg. "Dead Snow" is a both gory and often funny Norwegian film about a group of med students who get trapped in their cabin by ravenous Nazi zombies. Oh yea, you heard me right- Nazi zombies.

Clearly it is a bad idea to go off into the mountains for any reason in Norway. It is also clear that the country is enjoying a bit of Renaissance film wise with so many amazing and wonderful works being produced their recently. I really like the idea of these two movies together. "Prey" has a kind of "Texas Chainsaw Masacre" feel to it but with more blood and suspense. "Snow" starts as a typical kids lost in the woods (insert snow here) before going into traditional zombie territory. Somewhere into the 3rd act it becomes a comedy though and you laugh through the sickness. It also has two of the most disgusting scenes I've seen in recent history. All I'll say is: Outhouse and Face mask. Trust me, you want to see this. It doesn't hurt that both films are written well, acted well (i.e. straight), and the subtitles seem to be good as well. I'll need a Norwegian to help me with that one though. I cannot wait to see what else the country has in store for us in the future.

[side note: Also rent the "Dead Snow" bonus disc. It is full of behind the scenes featurettes, making of's, and a great multi-part documentary of the cast and crew on their way to Sundance.]

Psychological:


"Session 9" - A team of asbestos removers clean an abandoned psychiatric hospital, however the discovery of recorded patient sessions mixed with the generally eerie feeling of the hospital soon lead the crew to believe it's haunted. Or is it?

Prior to this film, Brad Anderson was known for light indie fare (see "Next Stop Wonderland"). Whatever was going through his mind when he came up with this, I wish would happen again. This is one of the creepiest movies without blood or FX I've ever seen. Like a really amazing episode of "Ghost Hunters" (screw you "Ghost Hunters: International"!). Peter Mullan ("Young Adam") and Josh Lucas ("Sweet Home Alabama") are especially brilliant. You won't even mind David Caruso, well maybe a little. A truly amazing ghost story.


"Pandorum" - Once again a space crew are awoken from hyper-sleep, this time with a major case of amnesia. As their memories return, they realize they may not be alone aboard the ship.

The trailers for this film were a bit vague and I loved it. Too often, nee all the time, we are given trailers that are not the teasers they're meant to be but the movie whittled down to 120 seconds. If I wanted to see everything in the trailer I wouldn't go to the movies, I'd read spoiler blogs. Tangent aside, this movie really surprised me. The twist at the end kind of pissed me off but the path that got us there was well made and full of surprise performances. Add to my "Can They Be In Everything" list: Ben Foster. I'm not ashamed to say I've been a fan since "Fast Forward" (and I was way to old to be a fan then and I am now!) and have followed his career, seeing as much as I can.

"Moon"- see my previous review here.

"Eden Lake" - A young couple hope to get away from the hustle and bustle of London by going camping at a favorite lake. Things go from idyllic to devastating when a gang of teens starts to harass, stalk, and terrorize them.

Let me admit right off the bat that the only reason I rented this movie was because it starred Michael Fassbender ("Hunger", "Inglourious Basterds"), may new film obsession. I'm also a big fan of Kelly Reilly ("L'Auberge Espagnole", "Pride & Prejudice"). It sounded really hokey, and it is believe me, but it's also a great story about the evils of man and the power of love (gag). I also love when the woman is the voice of reason and the smarter one in the story. It's so rare I just eat it up. You will never guess how this ends, but it's devastating. That must be my new word of the day- devastating. I need a thesaurus.


"The Strangers" - Joseph Gordon-Levitt look-a-like Bryan Bertino wrote and directed this cautionary tale to suburbanites across the country. James and Kristen return home from a wedding to enjoy some peace and quiet when there's a knock on the door. A gang of masked psycho's decides to have a bit of fun at their expense.

I wanted to see this in the theatre because I am a big fan of Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman is a nice piece of eye candy, but I missed it. Turns out, this movie is much better to see at home, in the dark, preferably on a stormy night. That's how I saw it and everything the wind pushed at the door or threw an acorn at the window I jumped. It was super fun times had by all!


"Felicia's Journey" - Bob Hoskin's stars as a lonely catering manager with a deadly weak spot for young ladies. When he meets Felicia, a pregnant young Irish girl, he may have met his match.

I also have a thing for Atom Egoyan. Maybe it's because he's Canadian, maybe because he introduced the world to Sarah Polley, I'm not sure. What I am sure about is this man knows how to make a gripping movie, whether it be the least exotic movie about exotic dancers since "Showgirls" ("Exotica"), about the aftermath of a deadly bus crash ("The Sweet Hearafter"- one of my favorite films), or this one about a serial killer; you will be mesmerized by the characters flaws and all. This isn't really a horror movie, so anyone looking for blood and guts should look elsewhere. However, it is an interesting portrait of a serial killer; the more lonely "American Psycho".
See Also: Funny Games, The Descent, Hard Candy, The Orphanage, Let the Right One In, Fists in the Pocket, 2046,  Donnie Darko, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done; Jacob's Ladder, The Number 23

17 October 2010

Fright Fest: Somethings at my window

What would a Halloween movie marathon be without things that go bump in the night? Monster's of all shapes and sizes have been terrifying us for decades. Personally, these are my favorite kinds of horror movies. Give me vampires, werewolves, satanic dolls, clowns, zombies, and the genetically altered any day!


"Dog Soldiers" - Neil Marhsal ("The Descent", "Centurion") makes his directorial debut in this tale of werewolves deep in the Scottish Highlands. On a routine training mission, a group of soldiers (what's up Kevin McKidd!) discover the mangled corpses of another battalion. Soon they are being hunted by whatever killed their comrades, so they high jack a small cottage in the woods.

A few years ago my Dad called me to talk about a movie he had seen. All he could remember was that it was Scottish, had werewolves, and was awesome. Cue a few months later and he's figured it out and bought this movie for me. Wow, was he right! Marshal has a tight script that kept me enthralled from beginning to end. The pacing is steady and the twist at the end seems to come out from left field (you may figure it out just before it's revealed, but nothing will be lost). I highlight this film as another reason CGI should be used only in extreme circumstances. The practical FX here are more terrifying and bloody because they are real. If you haven't seen this movie, queue it up immediately!

"An American Werewolf in London" - see my review here


"Ginger Snaps" - Everyone knows being a teenager sucks, and we all know now how easy we actually had it back then. So, what would happen if you were attacked in the woods while staging your own death photography and discovered come next full moon you were going to turn furry? It would certainly put a crimp in your social calendar.

One thing I really miss about video stores is the ability to wonder the aisles for hours, looking for things you've never heard of, being attracted to cover art. Sure, we can do that on Netflix, kind of; but it's not the same. I discovered this movie in Blockbuster and probably would have scrolled right past it online. Oh Canada, I heart your eccentric ways. Is this a movie about pubescence? Is it about family and the power of sisterhood (that's my guess)? Or, is it simply a vicious werewolf film with a high body count and gallons of blood? Actually, can I change my guess? I think a major reason I loved this movie was because I could identify. I too was the weird goth/punk chick in school. I was the kid who wrote a paper about medical autopsy for English. I was the girl who's parents were called when she designed an ad in Economics using a dominatrix. Come on, sex sells! So, a story with two goth-y chicks trying to keep their sanity and talk to boys is right up my ally. Don't be frightened guys, there's plenty of blood, guts, and pot to keep you interested too. Another practical FX masterpiece.


"Near Dark" - Before she became the first woman to win a directorial Oscar, Kathryn Bigelow helmed this ode to vampires and outsiders in 1987. Starring Adrian Pasdar (whatever happened to him?), Lance Henriksen (always a good sign), and Bill Paxton (good sign #2!). Pasdar gets seduced by this hot young thing into joining her gang but of course this is no typical band of misfits. They have a secret and a hungry thirst.

This movie is great for all the right reasons. It is atypically 80s and it's gory. There are some serious prosthetics going on here. It has been recently remastered and released on DVD so get crackin!


"Slither" - Equal parts camp and disgusting FX, Slither turns the classic zombie picture on its head. Alien slugs infect a small town, turning the residents into ooey gooey zombies in this homage to B-horror by James Gunn (writer of "Dawn of the Dead" 2004).

All I needed to know to see this movie was it starred Nathan Fillion and Michael Rooker. Sold! I literally fell out of my seat in the theatre laughing ("That looks like something that fell off my dick in the war"), then covered my eyes a moment later.


"Puppet Master" - A psychotic puppeteer turns his life's work into demonic killers who end up stalking and killing a group of psychic's trapped in an old hotel. Original spawned a series (9 by last count) that are still produced today.

As a child, dolls freaked the shit out of me. Sure I had plenty of Barbie's, but I kept them locked up for fear they would come to life at night and exact their tiny plastic revenge on me. I made my sister turn her porcelain doll around at night so it wouldn't look at me. Is it any wonder that the Puppet Master series freaked me out? I love movies that take the seemingly innocent toys of our youth and turn them into killing machines. Throw in some "ancient Egyptian magic" and I'm there.


"Mimic" - Sexy etymologist Mira Sorvino (the curse of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar strikes again!) accidentally creates a race of larger than life bugs that terrorize Manhattan. The great Guillermo del Toro directs in his English language debut based on a story by Donald A. Wollheim.

The aesthetic we've come to crave from del Toro gets its start here. Dark tunnels, wide shots, great lighting, and awesome FX are used to amp up what could have been a complete crapper of a movie. Much better than "The Relic" which came out at the same time in terms of style and horror factor. (I don't hate "The Relic", heck I own it and thought the book was great; but is it scary? Not hardly). PS- Jeremy Northam should be in more things.


"Alien" & "Aliens" Double Feature- Ridley Scott and James Cameron take us to the depths of the universe in two of the scariest movies ever made. I feel a little silly giving a synopsis of these classics but here goes: Sigourney Weaver, in her first leading role, stars as Ripley; an officer on a towing ship headed to Earth. Awoken from cryogenic sleep early to answer a distress call (when will people learn?), the crew find their ship taken over by angry bloodthirsty aliens of the nastiest kind. In "Aliens", Ripley finds she is the laughing stock of the intergalactic community over her account of what happened to her crew. All that changes when another crew goes missing and she leads a team of Marines (Bill Paxton again!!) in to investigate.

In a perfect world I would be the owner of the "Alien Quadrilogy": 9 discs of movies, making of features, and behind the scenes. Oh, to live in that world. Instead, I have a VHS copy of "Alien" with "Aliens" inside. Damned used book store! Not to worry, these movies have been on TV all month. I know it's sacrilegious to say, but I liked "Aliens" better. I can't remember when I first saw these movies, but it must have been on TV. My mother would NOT have approved of my seeing them so young, but I think I must have been 10 or 12. I promis this will be the last time I talk about practical FX (in this post), but CGI heavy movies don't hold up well over time. We can see that it's fake. I hate that flat shine everything seems to have. A huge 9 ft alien queen is a lot scarier.

[side note: There was a travelling movie FX show I saw at the Dallas Fair Grounds when I was a pre-teen. They had one of the adult aliens and the lifter rig (seriously, what is that? Someone help me out) that Ripley uses to push the alien out the air lock. There was also the werewolf head from "An American Werewolf in London" that grew hair, Norman Bates' mom, and more. I wish I could remember more about this exhibit. I want to see it again!]


"Dawn of the Dead" - Zack Snyder ("300"- groan, "Watchmen"- yea!) pumps blood into Romero's legacy with his remake of the 1978 classic. Zombies are taking over the US and a group of survivors try to stick it out in a mall. Sounds great, except the zombies have a little shopping to do.

When I first heard they were remaking Romero's classic, I was disgusted. Then the cast list came out and I was intrigued (Sarah Polley? Really?). Finally, I saw a trailer and was sold. Romero may be the grandfather of zombie entertainment, but Snyder recognizes that and instead creates a solid update for the ADD generation. Here the zombies are faster (but just as dumb thank god), and the survivors are still idiots trapped in a shopping mall (how long before you hit up the sporting goods store?). Do you have your zombie escape plan in effect?


"28 Days Later" - A refreshing take on zombies, this one started by a PETA-esque troop who unleash a deadly virus into the world while trying to save monkeys from genetic testing. Cut to Cillian Murphy (can he be in everything too?) waking up in a hospital bed alone. The whole place is deserted and we (the audience) are now cast as fellow travellers as we troll the streets of London looking for survivors and answers. Later, an oasis has been found, but is it everything it claims to be?

What can Danny Boyle not do? He's covered moral and ethical questions ("Shallow Grave"- really great), druggie culture ("Trainspotting"), fresh family fare ("Millions"), and won an Oscar for "Slumdog Millionaire". Seems only right that he should have his toe or hell his whole foot, in the horror/sci-fi arena. "28 Days Later" shifts the focus from a lone survivor to a group of nomads to the corrupt military, all the while making a paean to human nature verses human desire.


"Hellraiser" - I think we can all agree, Cliver Barker is a demented genius. I totally want to hang out with him. Here he directs his own work about an unfaithful wife haunted by her former lover (and her husbands brother) who has lost his corporeal body to the Cenobites who want him for their own twisted fun. A mysterious puzzle box is the key to unlocking Hell and bringing the Cenobites to Earth. Spawning a series (8 by last count) that should primarily be avoided, this first film holds up well with time and and is still disgusting and twisted. Sure to give nightmares to young ones, infirm, and adulterers.

Oh Pinhead... how I love your deadpan ways. When they replaced our beloved Cenobites in the 3rd installment they lost me. Is a guy with a boom box head that spits CDs supposed to be scary or funny? Either way you should avoid it. The torture scenes between Pinhead & co and their human victims are inspired. I don't mean that in a creepy you-should -call-the-cops way, but more in a hey-does-this-remind-you-of-"Saw"? kind of way.

See Also: Child's Play, Dolls, IT, The Howling, Wolfen, The Hunger, Piranha, The Blob, It's Alive, Pumpkinhead, Skinwalkers (it's so bad it's good), and Meet the Applegates (not a horror movie per se, but giant Amazonian bugs disguised as people is hilarious),