Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October Horror Challenge 2018 #101: "The Amazing Mr. X"

I think this movie was trying to be a film noir, but it kinda stumbled and failed. It's a shame too, because it had some ok ideas and it could have been better if about 30 minutes of boring filler crap had been cut out. Movies like this always seem to mistake long shots of people staring as poignant or artful when they're really just annoying.

In this movie, two sisters live together in a creepy old house by the sea. One sister used to live in the house with her husband until he disappeared at sea and is presumed dead, and now she can't seem to let go of his memory even though she has a new man in her life. She seeks help from a psychic, and soon both sisters are captivated by the psychic, while the new boyfriend tries to prove the psychic is a fraud.

The seaside setting is actually really beautiful and spooky, and the crows that keep popping up are good little providers of jump scares and a sense of foreboding, since crows are supposed to be harbingers of death. Like I said, this movie could have been good with some serious tweaking, because I like the idea and it works.

The acting isn't great,  but it's not terrible either, and the plot was twisty and morbid, even if the twists weren't terribly hard to figure out. It's mostly the long pauses and staring into nothing that ruin this one.  I wanted to scream at my TV screen for them to get on with it, which isn't what you want to be doing for your horror movie. It ends up being too slow and plodding to be worth checking out. Maybe they'll remake it someday and fix all the errors. Or you can just watch "Des Dioboliques" or "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte" instead, since they handled similar ideas much better.

October Horror Challenge 2018 #100: "Rifftrax: Samurai Cop"

And I'm sliding into 100 movies with an easy one, listening to the Rifftrax guys make sarcastic comments about a cheesy 90s movie. This movie is awful, but Samurai cop's hair is spectacular! There's a lot of people getting eviscerated with samurai swords and having their throats cut, and being burned with boiling oil (eeewww...that part actually made me cringe). And the horribly racist stereotyping in this movie is almost as cringey as the violence, good lord. It's cool to see a bunch of people get stabbed and shot and pummeled by overly violent second rate action heroes. Funtimes, gentlemen.

October Horror Challenge 2018 #99: "Thankskilling"

So you know how I'm always talking about how horror movies are an art form, and they can be full of nuance, character development, irony, and an examination of the fear if death and the hope for a triumph of good over evil? How horror movies can be just as deep and meaningful as any other film from any other genre? Well this is NOT one of those films. This is a slasher movie about a Turkey that comes to life and goes on a killing spree.

That's not to say that this movie isn't fun. I had a lot of fun with it (when I wasn't wishing I could stab myself in the face because of its stupidity). I love the flashback to the first Thanksgiving, with some awesome boobs (yay gratuitous nudity!) And there's some fun gore too. I mean, really,  this movie isn't to be taken seriously (though I do love how the Turkey is sworn to kill any white man to avenge all the genocide the pilgrims did back in the day...girl, same). Don't think too much and if you like some snarky funtimes with your horror, check this one out.

October Horror Challenge 2018 #98: "Scared to Death (1981)"

This poster looks really cool. I was excited to see that I'd found another 80s horror movie that I've never seen before,  and I briefly read the description, something about a killing spree in Los Angels, the police doesn't know who is committing the horrible mutilations, but a scientist and a cop figure out what's going on and have to venture into the city's sewer system to track a killer.

Sounds great! Sounds like it might even be a slasher, and those are my favorite horror subgenre, so I was stoked. It gave me pause that a "scientist" had to search the sewer system with the cop, but maybe it's a deformed science experiment turned psycho killer? Still sounds cool. Then I started searching for movie posters to include with this review as the movie was beginning...and ruh roh, suddenly I wasn't as excited about this movie.

I thought about including one of those other posters with this part of the review to illustrate what I mean, but I feel like they give away way too much, so I'm not going to do that. Suffice it to say that the killer in this movie looks RIDICULOUS,  and a lot of the other posters showcase close-up pictures of the killer, which defeats the purpose of the movie trying to keep the killer hidden in shadow for most of the movie. If your special effects look silly, it's best to hide that for as long as you can, and plastering pictures of your horrible looking creature all over the poster for your movie or the cover of the DVD is not a great idea.

I advise you not to look up other pictures from the movie before you see it. Keeping some things to the imagination is a good thing, and seeing this killer up close might just kill any excitement you have for seeing the movie. It plays out like it's a straight up slasher for most of it's running time (and maybe that horrible costume is just a mask the killer wears for some reason) and it's a shame to ruin that.

Aside from how silly the killer looks, the movie isn't too bad. People getting picked off by a killer, cops have no clues what's going on, finally scientists step up and say "hey, something's not right here) and soon cops +science have to team up to fight this result of scientific experimentation going horribly wrong. I'm not a huge fan of the main character, Mr. Former cop, but I guess he's ok and I want him to succeed over "evil killer thing."

The gore is mostly of the "blood splashed all over cars" variety, but it still works ok. I also like how there's a cop in this movie who's willing to admit that the investigation is going nowhere and is humble enough to ask the disgraced former cop for help. Look, character development! Don't always see that in low-budget horror flicks. I guess my big problem is that this movie came out quietly in the 80s, knew its effects budget wasn't great so kept its killer in shadow, and then all the geniuses who got there hands on the movie after that were like "look how stupid this killer is. LOOK. AT. IT!" Just like trailers nowadays that give away the whole damn movie before you have to see it, the concept of "less is more" is lost on some movie promoters. Don't let that stop you from watching a mostly enjoyable flick, though. Pretend the internet doesn't exist and just come in blind. The movie is better that way.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

October Horror Challenge 2018 #97: "Deep Dark (2015)"

After having some success with this strategy, I'm hoping on the "indie horror movie" train, hoping that I'll find another hidden gem like a few of the others I've seen this year for the Challenge. This movie is about a failed artist, a sculptor, who is considering suicide until he comes across a strange hole in the wall that talks to him, promising to make his wildest dreams come true. This is all great until it turns into a nightmare (a talking hole in the wall turning out to be evil...who would have seen that coming?)

This is a weird sounding premise for a movie, but sometimes weird ideas turn out to be good movies ("Slice" totally proved that) so I'm hopeful. It does take forever to get going, which is weird considering how short it is, but it was interesting enough watching Herman (the artist) fail at art.

Once Herman becomes acquainted with the hole in the wall, though, things get really weird, really quick. Like apeshit insane. Dude,  what kind of drugs were they on when they came up with this story? Good lord. It's not bad, though, who knew that a voice coming out of a hole in a wall could be so creepy? She's nuts, though (yeah, the voice seems to be a "she"). And once Herman decides he has to do something about the hole, things get violent (and even more weird). Whatever drugs the filmmakers were on, I'm glad they took them, because this was a cool little movie.

October Horror Challenge 2018 #96: "The Sleeping Room"

Ok, this poster is way creepy,  and much cooler than the one Amazon has advertising this movie. I call foul, because if they'd used THIS poster, the movie would have looked much better, and I probably wouldn't have waited so long to check it out. I'm so glad I finally did, though, because this movie is great.

So this movie is about a call girl named Blue who gets sent on a job to an old house being restored by a guy who seems more interested in hanging out and spending time with her than just having sex with her. She explores the house with him, watching some old movies he found in the house,  and they discover a hidden room that holds even more clues that seem to be connected to Blue's past. Soon it becomes clear that the house holds something sinister, too, and it seems to want Blue to stay...forever.

Why do we hear nonstop about tons of crappy movies, when little hidden gems like this exist and no one talks about them? I've never even heard of this movie before,  but it's one of the best I've watched this year (a lot of people seem to dislike it, but that's the story of my life). I cared about the characters, I loved Blue, and I wanted her to break free of her abusive pimp. I liked the budding love story, I was hooked on watching the mystery unfold, and the movie had me on the edge of my seat, jumping more than once. This is a good old fashioned ghost story, and I loved every minute.

October Horror Challenge 2018 #95: "Deadly Blessing"

This is another movie I've wanted to see for years that I promised myself I'd watch this year for the challenge. It came out the year I was born and I've heard about it off and on over the years. It's a Wes Craven movie, and I love him, so I was fairly certain I'd love this movie too (here's hoping, at least).

So this movie is about a small country town full of religious extremists who have very strong beliefs about how things should be done, how life should be lived, sin, and death. When friends come to visit a recent widow, they discover that she's terrified of the leader of this religious sect, played by Ernest Borgnine. Murders start happening in a town near this strange religious community,  and residents are afraid of being the next to die.

Michael Berryman is in this movie too. He was in Craven's classic "The Hills have Eyes," and he does well playing big, menacing creepy guys. Ernest Borgnine is really creepy as the leader of the paranoid religious sect. It's freaky as hell seeing he and his followers lurking around in the shadows, particularly when they watch someone being buried in a local cemetary. Dude, I'd be moving as far away from those weirdos as I could. Brr.

So I don't really understand why the women don't just leave. After a few murders, living out in the boonies where the police won't get to you in time to help, and with creepy religious neighbors that worship a screwed up, violent version of God...I get standing your ground and not letting the bad guys win and drive you away from your home, but I would be out of there if I could go, and her friends would certainly give her a place to stay if she asked, so it's not like money is an object. I just don't get why she didn't leave, especially after the snake incident.

Religious cults like this really piss me off. I worship God too, but the super violent God that tells them to abuse people in front of the congregation during a church service? I'll take a hard pass on that crap, thanks. This movie taps into a lot of fears, especially the fear of divine retribution from a murderous god who likes to torture people, and a religious cult that thinks they have to do the bidding of that God. Add in the murders ratcheting up the tension, and the isolated, rural setting where no one can hear you scream, and this movie is extra horrifying. I definitely liked it.