Monday, October 31, 2011

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 76: Repo: The Genetic Opera

Movie musicals are a mixed bag for me. I love music and I love singing along (though my voice has been known to crack windows and scare small children and animals) but when moviemakers try to film characters walking around bursting into song at random intervals, it tends to grate on my nerves. Thus, while I love music, I don't always like musicals. When I heard about this movie, a mixture of graphic novel and musical and bloody gory horror movie and dystopian future fantasy, I gave the whole concept the stink eye and avoided it on principle. I finally watched it the other night, and I'm happy to say I was pleasantly surprised.

First of all, the music is good in this movie. I didn't mind hearing the characters burst into song because the songs didn't make my ears bleed in the first place. Second, I loved the feeling of unreality shrouding this movie. Comic book panels dissolve into a colorful yet dark and gruesome future world fantasy where people can obtain artificial organs that allow them to beat disease and cheat death, but this comes at a high price, and if they can't afford to make payments on their organs, well...yeah, you saw this already in "Repo Men," I know, but it works here, too. It's scary because I can see this happening in the future. I saw a news story recently about a lab developing artificial organs and I felt my skin go pale because that nightmare future world suddenly seemed much closer than I wanted it to seem.

The acting here is excellent as well. Anthony Head is great here as the grieving father who does the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde bit, switching between his two personalities as he tries to take care of his daughter one minute and performs his gruesome job of harvesting organs the next. Alexa Vega (yes, LavaGirl) is sympathetic as the longsuffering daughter who has to stay cooped up in her bedroom because her overprotective father tells her she will die if she goes out into the world. Paul Sorvino is the heartless man who owns the company responsible for making the artificial organs. Most people bitch about Paris Hilton in her performance as his daughter, a shallow twit who is addicted to plastic surgery and drugs, but I think it's the perfect part for her and she works well in it.

The gore in this movie is pretty nasty and the effects are well done. Over-the-top at times, but it works within the framework of the movie. I also loved how characters were introduced as we met them and we got a glimpse of their backstory, seeing how their lives intertwine and learning the truth about past events that help us understand what's happening in their lives now. Very Charles Dickens, that. the movie is splashy, gory, creepy, and cool. I loved it.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 75: Queen of the Damned

First of all, I don't usually care for Stuart Townsend, but he kicks ass in this movie. He manages to be sexy and creepy and seductive and somehow still sympathetic. I didn't know he had it in him. Kudos. Aliyah isn't a great actress or anything, but she manages to exude that same creepy sexiness, so it was fun watching her character. she also had a very regal air, which worked for the "Queen of Vampires." Much is made of anne Rice and her whiny vampires who complain and piss and moan for all eternity, but in this movie, the dichotomy between enjoying living forever and having supernatural powers and hating yourself for killing people and forever having this unquenchable thirst for blood really shines through. I know that no one else likes this movie, but I do. Sue me. I mean, don't get me wrong, this movie isn't great cinema or anything, but I dug it. the vampires were cool and creepy looking, the soundtrack was great, and I had a lot of fun watching it (even if I did spend a lot of time snarking what I saw onscreen). For my money, this is a fun vampire flick that I really enjoyed watching.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 74: A Nightmare on elm Street (2010)

Where do I begin here? Ok, first, enjoy a priceless bit of dialogue from this movie:

Daughter: "Did you ever know a guy named freddy?"

Mother: "I don't think so."

Right, never in your life have you ever known anyone by the name of Freddy. Ever.

In a way, that sums up this movie's problems in a nutshell. This kind of nonsensical dialogue pours from the characters' mouths and I just want to jump through the screen and punch them in the face.. The movie LOOKS great, a lot of the nightmares are creepy, and the characters LOOK the part...but then they start talking, and it all falls apart.

You can tell this movie was directed by a guy who usually makes music videos. It LOOKS great, at least visually. When it comes to plot and twists and mystery and depth, however, the movie just falls flat on its face. Contrast this with the original, which had some special effects that look pretty silly now, but it had subversive twists and an air of tragedy and mystery surrounding it that makes it work in spite of those less than stellar visuals, whereas the remake has really cool visuals but virtually no plot. we don't even get to know who these kids in the movie are before they start getting slaughtered. the original gave us a chance to get to know them before anybody died, so we actually had a chance to give a shit about them. In the remake, we barely know who the kids are, so why should we care when they start dying?

Not only that, but when the movie starts trying to have a plot, it gets really stupid and start insulting our intelligence. Kids who knew each other when they were five aren't just going to FORGET that and think they never knew each other because their parents tell them so. They might not remember everything, but I remember things from when I was five years old (and why the hell does the movie tell us that all this stuff happened to these kids when they were in preschool, which is idiotic because five year old kids would be in Kindergarten, not preschool in the first place, and also, all the child actors are quite obviously older than five, so it looks stupid)? Ok, maybe they didn't want to use really young kids in the movie, but then don't make the kids so young in the script. Make them about six in the plot, put them in Kindergarten instead of preschool, and then it won't look so stupid when you start telling us that these eight year olds are actually five years old. Didn't this movie have editors around to catch these kinds of stupid things and fix them before unleashing this movie on the poor unsuspecting public?

I know I'm a great big Wes Craven fangirl, but in my opinion, the original "A Nightmare on Elm Street" does everything right. It introduces us to characters, lets us get to know them a bit, introduces the terrifying idea that someone is killing them in their sleep and this causes them to die in real life (can you imagine if nightmares really COULD kill you? I'd be dead a thousand times over) keeps us in the dark about why everything is happening, then reveals the backstory which explains why this nightmare man is stalking, terrorizing, and killing these kids. The remake throws deaths at us right from the beginning, doesn't tell us who these kids are, keeps the killings coming without giving us much reason to care, then tries to manufacture a backstory that doesn't make much sense because it keeps changing its mind about what it wants to say. In the original movie, there was this back and forth that tore at the was wrong for the parents to burn a man to death, but the things he did were terrible. In the remake, the parents are portrayed as a bunch of hotheaded dipshits who don't think things through before they act, and thus it's almost impossible for us to identify with what they did. Are they trying to make Freddy into a tragic hero here with this movie? Then the story changes its mind, and then it changes its mind again, and I want to stab it in the face. "The movie is really about THIS. Just kidding! THIS is what we're really trying to say. PSYCHE! THIS is really what believe us now, don't you?" By that point, more discerning viewers have probably stopped caring.

In the original, Freddy was a sadistic man in life who became even more sadistic after his death. I don't even know what the movie was going for with his character, and it seemed like they were trying to make the ending a surprise, but unless people have been living on the moon under a rock their whole lives, most people already know the "twist" is coming before they start watching the movie. I'm sure the plot had a point, but whatever it is, it doesn't have half the emotional impact that the original managed to have, and I know it had the budget to hire good writers, but instead they spent their entire budget on fake blood and didn't think anyone would notice or care. It's just irritating. You make a remake in order to improve on the original movie, not just to cash in on the name recognition of the original movie with a half-assed attempt at telling a story. the original had an impact with audiences because it toyed with some deep philosophical ideas and questions, and it had a nightmarish dreamlike atmosphere that haunted audiences with the scary thought of what would happen if their dreams really could hurt them. The remake has a bunch of attractive actors and gallons of fake blood. It's insulting to me that people would think horror fans aren't smart enough to realize when a movie is devoid of depth or plot development or character. Those are the things that make a movie endure throughout the years. I usually tend to like remakes better than a lot of horror fans, but this one was just boring. I wanted to fall asleep and get killed by Freddy so I wouldn't have to finish watching it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 73: The Skeptic

So I saw the poster for this movie, saw that it had Tom Arnold in it, and went "Nope, pass." I wasn't going to subject myself to this. Especially since IFC films releases as many terrible movies as they do good ones, it seems. But I saw the trailer for this movie, and the trailer looked really awesome, and that put a fire under my ass and then I really wanted to see this movie. so it was with much anticipation that I popped the DVD in this morning. So how did the movie fare?

Well, from the start, Tom Arnold doesn't have a very big role in this movie (he's another lawyer who works with the main character at the same law firm) and I think his name is only out there in the promotional material because it's a name the filmmakers think people will recognize. Unfortunately for them, the name recognition works AGAINST them, and people who recognize who Tom Arnold is probably won't want to see this movie because of him, and that's a shame, because he's not bad in his little role and he certainly doesn't detract from the movie any. The plot here surrounds a man (played by Tim Daly) who prides himself as the world's best skeptic. His life is ordered, orderly, a place for everything and everything in its place. He thinks it works for him. Unfortunately, it doesn't work for his wife, who asks for a separation hoping it will shake him out of his emotionless rut and is irritated when he takes the suggestion as a chance to move out and go live in his recently deceased aunt's house until the estate is settled.

His aunt was his last living relative, so he thinks he should get the house, but his aunt left it instead to an institute for the study of paranormal phenomena, which as you can imagine sets Mr. Skeptic off leik whoah. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, he's experiencing strange phenomena in the house which he's sure aren't ghosts (because ghosts don't exist, of course) so it's not until things start to spiral out of control that he begins to think maybe things aren't as they seem and maybe what he thinks he knows about his life might not be accurate, and maybe something is going on beyond the realms of natural understanding.

It's a hell of a trailer and a hell of a premise, and even though I don't like the main character, I still kind of wanted him to figure out what was going on and stop the evil. I loved everything right up until the ending, which seemed really rushed and really confusing to me, and I'm still not sure I "get it" 100%, so I'm going to have to let it sit for awhile, maybe buy the movie and watch it again, maybe read some other reviews to see what people thought, but it's not a "bad ending" by any means, at least I'm not ready to categorize it that way yet, so I'm just going to say the ending was kind of a let down, but the movie is definitely worth checking out. It's not perfect, but I really enjoyed it. Some spooky good fun.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 72: Masters of Horror: The Damned Thing

This is another movie that I totally looked at the cover and thought "ew, that's going to suck" and then I never ever watched it until I started going through all the Masters of Horror for this year's horror movie challenge, and then I watched it because I kind of had to, and I was very pleasantly surprised at how good it was. The premise is that a young boy watches his father kill his mother after muttering something about how "the damned thing found him," and the boy grows up to be a very paranoid, cautious kind of man. He's the sheriff in the small town where he grew up (um, why would you want to live in that town? And in the exact house where it happened? Not the sharpest tool in the shed, are we, sheriff?) The sheriff is having problems with his wife, and they're separated, but still friendly and he still sees his son all the time. his wife just can't take his paranoid, mopey mood anymore, and I kind of don't blame her. he's not an unlikable guy, though, so when events in the town start to mirror exactly what happened that led up to his father murdering his mother years ago (apparently, people got angry and violent in town a LOT back then) I was rooting for him to figure out what was going on and to stop it. The story is simple (and then it gets complicated and I'm still not exactly sure about a few details, but not enough to detract from my enjoyment of the movie) and the acting was good, and I cared about the characters, so I definitely recommend this movie. It's one I plan to add to my collection as well. Let's see if I can't figure out exactly what happened upon repeated viewings, shall we? Check this one out. You might like it as much as I did.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 71: Masters of Horror: Family

This is another one of those episodes that I thought was going to suck. I saw the cover art and thought "Oh God, I would rather watch paint dry," and thus I avoided it like the plague until this horror movie challenge, and I decided that since I've avoided much of the "Masters of Horror" movies for this long, I had better at least give this one a chance. Again, this movie wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Actually, this one is pretty good and it works much better than I thought it ever could. George Wendt, for those of us old enough to remember the show "Cheers," is in this movie, and it's creepy to see him playing such a freaky weirdo. Right from the beginning, his happy, smiling face is contrasted with the horrible, sick things he's doing, and that juxtaposition is enough to make these scenes chilling. I wanted to smack the camera guy who made a slow pan of every square inch of this guy's house in the opening sequence (overkill, dipshit, we get it, he's alone and has a quiet, clean house) but when the camera finally pans to the basement, the money shot is worth the wait as we see what our kindly neighbor is doing in that basement. Eep.

The new couple moving in next door have their own problems (though we know their problems are about to get a lot worse, and they don't seem to realize this). The husband a wife have recently suffered a tragic loss (there seems to be a theme running through this season of Masters of Horror; tragic family losses and the people who are left to pick up the pieces afterward) and they spend so much time wrapped up in those troubles that they don't realize there's something weird going on with their neighbor until the shit has hit the fan. I feel bad (well, I feel bad for the wife, but if I'm honest with you, I didn't like the husband and kind of wanted to push him off a cliff so I had trouble working up too much give-a-shit where his fate was concerned) but the movie delivers the chills (and they're some nasty chills, at that) so it's well worth a watch. Much better than you probably think it will be.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 70: Calvaire: The Ordeal

This is one of those movies that everyone recommended to me forever but that I put off forever because I kept forgetting about it or wanting to watch something else more, so I just now got around to watching it. I think at some point someone warned me how brutal this movie was going to be, but I must have forgotten or pushed it to the back of my mind, because I wasn't expecting it to disturb me as much as it did and it was a hard movie to finish.

When I say "brutal" here, I'm not necessarily talking about gore, because there didn't appear to be as much gore here as in other movies I've seen, but I'm talking about the torture the movie's protagonist endures. It's really tough to watch at times. the movie is about a musician traveling in the rain one night whose van breaks down in the middle of the road and he accepts help from an odd man he sees walking around in the rain looking for his "dog." As you can probably guess, this guy is about 12 cans short of a 6 pack, and as soon as our hero follows the weirdo out into the night, he's basically screwed. Things don't just go from bad to worse, though, and that's what makes the movie hard to watch for me. Things go from bad, to a little badder, to a little badder, to a little badder, as the strangeness increases in such small increments that the good guy doesn't realize he's in trouble until it's too late. I could see the spider building its web and I kept yelling at the good guy to escape (why don't they ever listen to me?) but he just sticks around, ignoring his rapidly growing sense of dread, until it's too late.

Like I said, there isn't much gore on display here, but the torture is disturbing enough that it had me flinching and turning away for long periods of time, which was bad enough for me. I won't spoil anything for you, but for the people who are expecting sawed off body parts, you'll be disappointed. this isn't that kind of movie. This is the kind of movie for those who might almost rather have their body parts sawed off than deal with some of what this guy has to deal with in this movie. It's not one I can recommend, as in "hey. get all your friends to sit down and watch this movie!" They might have you committed. But for fans of the kind of films that make our skin crawl and make us very uncomfortable, those of us who should know better but watch this kind of movie anyway, this is worth a look. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 69: Let Me In

And now for something completely different. This movie is a remake of the much-loved (in horror circles anyway) film "Let the Right One In," which is a total revolution of the classic vampire story. Based on the book of the same name, by author John Ajvide Lindqvist, the movie burst onto the scene a few years ago and knocked everyone on their asses for changing a lot of the ways people looked at vampires. It was about a middle school kid who falls for this new girl who lives in his apartment complex, Eli, who keeps telling him she isn't a girl, and he soon discovers this is true in many subversive and shocking ways. Those who hate the movie (they exist, I assure you) bash it for being too slow and having all buildup with no action, but people like me, we were riveted by the story of the corruption of innocence, the complexity of young love, the creepiness mystery of vampirism, and we pretty much loved every minute. the book is more detailed than the movie, but in some ways I think the lack of details in the movie helps the story along. too much exposition kind of bogs things down, and having everything remain a kind of mystery helps keep me intrigued.

So as with all remakes of much-loved foreign films, lots of people wanted to hate this remake. They saw it as dumbing the story down for US audiences, and I would have agreed with them, but Chloe Grace Moretz was cast in the part of the vampire (here renamed Abby) and I knew how great she was in the movie "Kick-Ass," so I was willing to give her a chance, and the movie along with her. This is one of those rare, rare cases where both the book and the adaptation and then the remake of the adaptation are pretty much equally good, at least for me. They each have flaws, but I think they each have things they do better on their own, so I wound up liking them all equally.

First, I don't think this movie is dumbed-down. I think some aspects of the plot were made more explicit to help further the story, but it's not talky and over-explainy and it doesn't sugarcoat anything or tack on a generic "they all lived happily ever after" ending. I think this movie stayed true to the mysteriousness of Abby's condition, kept Abby's past a secret (but not in an annoying "we're editing 100 pages of text into 20 minutes" kind of way that made it seem choppy) and they kept some subversive things I thought they might change just so people didn't run from the theater screaming. Moretz is superb here (I knew she could do it) and her friend-turned-boyfriend Owen is played by Kodi Smit-McPhee (what, was there a rule that all young cast members must have three names?) does a great job making us like him and root for him even though his life is rather dark and hopeless even before Abby enters the picture.

The scenes of bullying at Owen's school are more graphic in "Let Me In" than in the original movie, and that made it hard to watch. Additionally, the climax, which takes place at Owen's school at night, is weaker in this remake than it is in the original, but it still works, and the very end, the denoument, is well done in both movies. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this remake and plan to buy it because I think it does most everything right. I suggest that fans of the original movie or of the book at least give this movie a chance. They might be pleasantly surprised.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 68: Masters of Horror: The V Word

I see the title "The V word" and I immediately think "vagina" (don't pretend you didn't think that, too) but alas, there is no vagina to be found in this movie. there is, however, a VAMPIRE, and it's kind of a cool vampire at that. Two bored teenagers decide to break into a funeral home in this movie (hey, why not, it's that kind of party) and they find that one of the corpses in the funeral home is not exactly dead, but is rather UNdead, and then their worlds are turned upside down (because vampires don't exist, right? I mean, they're not supposed to) and they have to figure out what to do from there (let's start by going back in time and never having the stupid idea to break into the funeral home in the first place, you geniuses). This movie doesn't suck (HAHAHAHA I AM SO FUNNY) but it doesn't have much bite ether (I AM A COMEDIC GENIUS OMG LOL) and there's not much plot to sink your teeth into (LMAO THIS IS COMEDY GOLD RIGHT HERE) so I did enjoy this movie and will probably check it out next year as well, but it wasn't ground breaking or anything and I didn't love it as much as say, "We all Scream for Ice Cream" (OMG stop talking about that, Lillian) so it's recommended, but not like, glowingly so, or anything, you dig? It was good, but I wanted it to be better? I love you, but I'm not in love with you? It's not me, it's you? I hope we can still be friends (don't call me, I'll call you).

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 67: Masters of Horror: Pelts

This is another one of these movies that I didn't want to watch. Really. I mean, I love Dario Argento, and when he's good, he's GREAT, but when he's bad...well, let's say he helps give new meaning to the word "bad," which I guess is a compliment in and of itself, but I had reservations about this movie coming in, and I was mostly proven right. Now honestly, the movie wasn't as bad as I probably thought it was going to be> I don't know if Meat Loaf Aday was cast here as a joke, but I happen to think he's not a bad actor, and he definitely holds his own in this movie, and the movie is subversive, with a lot of mean, nasty people having mean, nasty things done to them, so it's not all out terrible or anything. It's just kind of...flat. It had the feel of one of the old E.C. horror comics Tales from the Crypt stories, where bad things happen to bad people and it's gory and nasty, and I appreciated the effort there, but whereas a movie like "We all Scream for Ice Cream" worked in spite of having everything against it, this movie kind of just hangs there in spite of having a bunch of plusses in its favor, and while it really wasn't BAD, I was annoyed that it wasn't BETTER.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 66: Masters of Horror: The Washingtonians

I really don't even want to get into this movie. so much so that I had to throw this review together at the last minute, because I had forgotten about this movie. I suppose that was my mind trying to protect itself from having to write this review. If I'm being honest, I'll admit that the movie wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, as I was certain that it would be the worst movie I'd ever seen, but it wasn't THAT bad, really. I just...ok, this movie is about the hidden secret historical fact that George Washington was a cannibal who loved to eat the flesh of virgins (no, I am NOT making that up, but are you starting to see the problem here?) and there's a secret society of historians who know this fact and want to keep it hidden from public knowledge, and they're known as the "Washingtonians," and they are all cannibals too...yeah, I know, you're thinking whoever made this was probably on drugs, and I'm thinking that being on drugs is probably the best state of mind in which to watch this movie, and I wasn't on drugs when I saw it, so I just kind of stared blankly at it for awhile, and then had the strong urge to go watch paint dry. The movie doesn't know if it wants to be a comedy or a horror movie or a gross-out splattery mix of the two, and so it kind of just hangs out in the middle wasting everyone's time. The premise is so stupid that for it to be at ALL redeemable is an achievement I guess, but it's just kind of dumb, and though it's gory and icky and trying to shock people, it just makes me want to watch something else. Something better.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 65: Masters of Horror: Valerie on the Stairs

This is one of those movies I'll probably have to give another chance later, because I was really impatient with it when I first watched it, so I probably didn't give it the fair chance I should have, and it kind of pissed me off, to be honest. Here's the thing. It's about a young man who is a struggling writer, and he moves into a halfway house for other struggling writers, with the stipulation that if he ever becomes a published author he has to move out and find somewhere else to live. so he moves in and starts working on his novel, but he starts having visions of a beautiful, naked woman on the stairs outside his room, and as he talks to her more, he finds out she is in danger. all the other residents of the house deny that they've ever seen anything ghostly and they call him crazy, but as time goes on it seems they all might know more about her than they're letting on. The premise is intriguing, and I can't really point to one thing that doesn't work in this movie. I can see a lot of Clive Barker in it, with its sly commentary about writers (we're all crazy, you know) and aside from Tony todd being kind of silly in this movie (I love him, I really do, but I kept wanting to crack up because his character is supposed to be scary but when he's just sitting around trying to look menacing he looks like one of the gargoyles from Disney's animated "Hunchback of Notre Dame" movie and it ruins the effect) but the movie just came off as...kind of silly when it was supposed to be scary. I'll likely give it another chance, but it really rubbed me the wrong way and made me roll my eyes into the next century, so I'd caution people not to expect too much lest they be disappointed.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 64: Masters of Horror:

This is a movie that SHOULDN'T work, for all practical rights and purposes. I'm going to describe the plot to you, and then you're going to think "Damn, that sounds stupid" and I agree with you, because that's what I thought, too. In the opening scenes of this movie, a father is pleading with a little boy not to eat some ice cream, and the little boy eats the ice cream anyway, and the father shrieks in terror and suddenly MELTS into a puddle of ice-cream and dead guy goo. I know, ridiculous, right? Except somehow...within the universe of this works. It turns out a sadistic ghostly ice cream man dressed as a clown is delivering ice cream to kids in a small town, and the ice cream is irresistible to them, but once they eat it, their parents will melt into ice creamy goo. I understand how stupid that sounds, but somehow it just works. The clown helps, I'm sure, because those things are creepy anyway, and particularly this one, long dead and deranged and vengeful. Plus the whole idea id disgusting and creepy. Kids killing their parents? Parents melting into goo? Icky nasty demon ice cream? It's everything that would have been the best movie ever made if I saw it when I were ten years old, but it was still pretty damn good even at thirty. I suggest that you give it a chance (but you might not want to eat ice cream for awhile after seeing it).

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 63:Master's of Horror: Sounds Like

This is a pretty sad movie. There's a lot going on here. A man has a strange auditory gift (he has a very heightened sense of hearing) but it's more of a curse, because he can hear often muffled or faint noises as though they are very loud, and it makes his life difficult, to say the least. He's also coping with grief from a recent loss, a wife who is pushing him to move on, a boss who is pushing him to increase productivity at his job under threat of getting fired, and all these stressors combine to slowly chip away at the poor guy's sanity. The guy's auditory enhancements start to grate on me after awhile of watching this movie, and suddenly the enhanced, LOUD noises he has to endure start to get to me, so I can't imagine how he lives with these noises without totally losing it...and then his predicament become oven sadder for me to watch. This movie is very effective and does what it does a little too well, but I admire it for that. It got under my skin and disturbed me like horror is supposed to do.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 62: Master's of Horror: The Screwfly Solution

This movie really pissed me off. At first, it's intriguing and disturbing and pretty damn cool. The movie details that bad things are starting to happen in the world. suddenly and inexplicably, men are starting to snap and violently beat then kill women. while this event is nothing new in the world, it's starting to happen at an alarming rate, with men unable to differentiate between sexual desire and the desire to kill. Bad things ensue and women start dying off in record numbers and needing to go into hiding to protect themselves from men, and as everything starts going down, it's pretty hard to watch. So like I said, everything is disturbing and creepy and effective...and then suddenly it's like the filmmakers said "Wait, we were supposed to make a BAD movie! Shit, quick, do something really really stupid!" and then they made the ending, and it was really stupid, and it made me want to punch the filmmakers in the face, and that annoys me because up to that point, they had a pretty cool movies on their hands, and I hate when that happens.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 61: The Black Cat

This is a movie that combines Poe's titular story "The Black Cat," about a man being tormented by a feline that seems to refuse to die (but he's a jerk, so we don't necessarily root for him in his battle with the cat) and it combines that story with elements from Poe's own life (his difficulty in writing during his later years, his drinking problem, and the illness of his wife). The movie combines these elements and weaves them together into something pretty cool (but then I'm a huge Poe geek, so I've read everything he's written, even his essays, and will watch/read anything even tangentially related to him, so I'm pretty much the ideal target audience for this kind of thing). It's a little disorienting, but Jeffrey Combs does a great job here as Poe, and his performance ties everything together into one creepy and weird little movie, so I liked it a lot.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 60: Masters of Horror: Dream Cruise

This is one of those movies that I was skeptical about, but also intrigued, because as a rule, Asian horror movies tend to creep me out a lot. US ghosts jump out from behind doors and yell "Boo!" but Asian ghosts, they crawl out from under your covers when you're in bed, they turn your TV on and crawl out of wells and then step out of the TV screen and come after you, they step out of security camera footage and come after you...basically, they kick ass and take names and then drag you to hell. That's really creepy. This movie manages to combine two of my biggest fears, ghosts and drowning, and combine them into one hugely creepy mix to haunt my dreams for awhile after watching it. I dug it. It's also a love story, though the two people who fall in love are causing all kinds of trouble, because she is married and he is her husband's lawyer, so bad things are going to happen when all three of these people decide to go on a cruise together. Ghostly things and drama and near-drowning ensues and gives Lillian nightmares. All in a day's work.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 59: Masters of Horror: Pro Life

This would be my OTHER favorite episode of "Masters of Horror." The idea behind that show was to gather directors who were responsible for great horror movies of the past, and give them free reign to create an hour-long horror movie on any subject they desire. Truth be told, I have seen very few of these movies in the past (I'm trying to rectify that now by watching the entire series this year if I can) but this is one of the movies that I bought without seeing it first, both because I love the director, John Carpenter, and because the subject matter was abortion, which intrigued me because of its potential to be horrific. This movie certainly IS horrific, and I forget that every time I watch this movie, and then I watch it again and get all upset all over again, but though this movie is sick and nasty and gory and disturbing and angry-making, I still appreciate how it manages to get under my skin every time.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 58: Right to Die

This is probably my favorite of the limited Master's of Horror episodes I've seen, and truthfully, knowing it was about the "right to die" movement, I bought it without checking it out first when it hit DVD, because I was pretty sure I'd like it. I'm glad Rob Schmidt didn't disappoint me here. The movie is gory, nasty, and subversive, and I love it for that. It's about a man who gets into a car accident that leaves him without a scratch but puts his wife into a coma with terrible burns covering almost all of her body. He insists that she wouldn't want to live as a vegetable, her mother insists that he just wants to kill her, and the fight begins. the man isn't telling us everything, and we find out lots of things along the way, like how his wife is PISSED at him and she is lying in her coma plotting how she will soon take her revenge against him from beyond the grave. I've seen this movie several times, and I like it more every time. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 57: Harvest of Fear

This is the kind of movie that it's a little sad for me to watch. I really enjoy low-budget horror most of the time, and the people who made this movie clearly *think* they're making a good, scary movie. There's opening and closing narration that tries to tie the story together, there are pretty shots of the autumn leaves in the small town, the setup really seems to be that of a good scary movie...and it just doesn't pan out. The acting is a mixed bag. Some of it is good, some of it is terrible, some of it is just passable. The gore is kind of hokey, the story tries to be scary but it's mostly silly, and it just doesn't work. I wanted to like this movie, but I just couldn't, and that makes me sad as a fan of schlocky horror. I hope the filmmakers get a chance to try their hand at making a movie that works someday, but I can't recommend this one.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 56: The Chambermaid

This is a seriously messed up movie. It's not really a horror movie, contrary to how it's marketed as a slasher movie, and it's not really anything else, either, it just kind of a sleazy little exercise in awkwardness that is just plain weird and disorienting to watch. There's a young woman working two dead-end jobs to support her slacker druggie musician of a boyfriend, and when he gets into trouble with some nasty drug dealers, she tries her hand at prostitution, moonlighting in her job as a hotel cleaning woman by accepting money from one of the guests who offers to pay her for sexual favors. She complies, which gets her in trouble with her boss, and when he threatens to fire her, she pretends to be in love with him, and then she moves in with him, but when he finds out she was just pretending, he starts keeping her tied up in the's just a confusing, weird, sleazy mess of a movie. I kind of enjoyed watching the weirdness unfold onscreen (and I think I'm in love with scream queen Fiona Horsey, and Paul Conway, who was also in "Angst," is good in both movies, though he's creepy and sleazy to the max here). I had some fun with this movie, but I don't think many other people would, so maybe you should all steer clear of it, just in case.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 55: Angst

This is one of those movies that's very hard to recommend. Seriously. I really enjoyed it, but I can hear everyone screaming at me now about how terrible it is: the special effects are virtually nonexistent because of the low budget, the plot is extremely strange, and weird random shit keeps happening in the movie for no reason other than to make it strange (throw in some siamese twins who go on a date with a main character, who falls in love with one twin but not the other? Why not!) It's certainly not a good movie, but scream queen Fiona Horsey, who plays the main character, is a good actress (she really turns into whatever character she's playing, so even if the plot is unbelievable, you believe what she's saying, and I appreciated that) and the plot, about a young girl who is constantly abused and mistreated by men until she discovers that she has a horrific way to fight back, is fun to watch. Well, at least for me. I have a feeling most people are too sane to have the kind of demented fun I had watching this movie, but I enjoyed it.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 54: A Brush with Death

This is a movie about two brothers and their controlling, abusive father. The movie flashes back between the past (the year 1955, when the family living in a farmhouse was massacred) and the present, where a group of spoiled rich college girls are taking a weekend trip to stay in the summer house owned by the uncle of one of the girls, and this summer house just happens to be conveniently located next door to the farmhouse where the massacre occurred many years before. Gee, I wonder if something bad will happen to the girls this weekend? This movie is kind of a mess, with flashbacks that come out of nowhere and muddle the plot, and sometimes it's almost impossible to tell when something is a flashback and when it's supposed to be the present-day, but I kind of like it in spite of its flaws. The gore is pretty well-done, the acting is better than I expected it to be (it's bad, but I've seen worse) and even though the plot is kind of a convoluted mess, it still wasn't bad to sit back and watch a bunch of college girls get picked off one by one by a nasty killer on a sadistic mission. All in all, it could have been a lot worse and I wound up enjoying the time I spent watching this movie.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 53: Hallowed

This is one of those rare little horror flick where everything that SHOULDN'T work inexplicably does, and it turns what should be an excruciating viewing experience into an enjoyable one. The opening sequence shows a little boy who looks up to his Priest (like a lot of young children in the church, he associates his Priest as God) and instead of going for the cheap shot and making the Priest a molester, the movie makes him a genuinely kind, caring guy, which is a surprising twist from what I expected. The little boy has a frightening home life, with a violent father who beats his mother and one night murders her, which causes the boy to have a breakdown and be committed to an asylum. 20 years later, the boy is out, walking around his old neighborhood handing out bibles and preaching some message about how God wants him to cleanse the world from sin (uh oh, this doesn't bode well for the residents of the town in question). The actor playing this guy can't act, and he says his lines in a wooden, robotic way that I usually HATE, but for some reason, in THIS particular movie, it works and makes him seem even more creepy. Usually I hate that wooden line-reading crap and it's the fastest way for a movie to piss me off, but like I said, what usually makes a movie bad, somehow in THIS movie works to make it better than it would otherwise be. The gore is pretty well done in this movie, and there are a few deaths that come as a surprise because typically these characters would be expected to live in a movie like this. I don't know if the movie turns these expectations on their heads because it's a good movie that knows what it's doing, or because it's totally inept, but either way, it somehow works and makes the movie a satisfying viewing experience where I expected it to be terrible.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 52: Demonic (2006)

This is another little-seen movie, but there is a lot to recommend it (in one particular campy bonus, we get to see Tom Savini as a creepy weirdo who lives in the woods and kidnaps stranded travelers from the side of the road, dragging them back to his shack in the woods and holding them captive for some unknown purpose). The movie opens with two people making out in their car in the woods who are suddenly attacked by a flock of beautiful, nubile, naked, female demons who like to make out with the women and then feast on the men (what a way to go!) The special effects aren't bad for this being a low-budget horror flick, the acting is passable (I've seen far worse) and the atmosphere is pretty as the movie steadily builds to a conclusion that, while I saw it coming ahead of time, was a fitting ending to a nasty little movie, and I really appreciated it. It's not the best movie ever made or anything, but it's a fun, gory way to spend an hour and a half, so I dug it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 51: Uninvited (1993)

This is one of those movies where i watch it and then get angry that I've never heard of it before. Stuff like "Avia: Vampire Hunter" gets a DVD release and this doesn't? What is going on here? This is a low-budget affair, but the actors are all kicking ass and taking names despite the low budget, the few special effects there are work well and add to the creepiness of the story, and it has a cool plot that is well-executed. In short, there are TONS of movies way more terrible than this that have gotten a good DVD release, and this is shoved into the middle of one of those 10-and-12-movie packs with a bunch of other movies no one will ever see, and thus no one will ever see this, either, and it deserves a lot better.

This is a mixed-genre movie; a combination western/horror movie, where a group of poor settlers in the old west travel to the site of a gold mine hoping to find gold and use it to buy themselves a better life. There's a preacher who wants to use the gold to build a church, there's a husband and wife who want to start fresh in some other place away from the problems that plagued their marriage, there's a man who lost everything in his life including his faith and thus became cold and angry and mean and violent, there's a woman forced into prostitution to survive on her own who wants to buy herself a new life. All these people are already haunted before they even get to the site of the mine, which is littered with dead bodies and supposedly protected by a curse because it's the site of a burial ground. The people have traveled too far to go back now, so they disregard the dead bodies and foreboding feeling of doom and the nightly nightmares of violent murder and they start to dig. As time goes on, they find more trouble than gold, and they start to come apart at the seams. It's a creepy story that's handled well, and for the life of me I can't understand why more people haven't seen it, but I'm glad that I got the chance to see it and I'll definitely be checking it out again (and you should, too). Here are two of my favorite quotes from the movie to tide you over until you see it for yourself:

"Every time I see a man like you alive and well, I marvel at the patience of God."

"Piss on you and your God!"

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 50: The Haunting of Rebecca Verlaine

This movie came in one of those 12-movie packs that usually only contain one movie that's actually watchable, and I bought it because I wanted to watch one of the other movies in it, so the "watchable" spot had already been taken by another movie and thus I had low expectations for this movie. Understand that coming in, and you might see why I plan to give this movie such a glowing review. It might be a bad movie, but I came into it with such low expectations that it had nowhere to go but up from there, so I was pleased with how much I enjoyed it. There's a lot of hate for this movie floating around on the internet, but for my money (all $5 of it) this movie isn't half bad and is definitely worth checking out.

I was excited to see this movie when I discovered that it had been made by Olaf Ittenbach, because while his movies are often bad, they are also gory and entertaining to watch, so his involvement was a plus for me where it might have been a big minus for others. Another bonus is that the actress who plays Rebecca Verlaine in this movie can actually act, so it's not painful to watch her for an hour and a half. As with all Ittenbach movies, the gore is excessive but very well done considering the film's low budget, and while the plot is a little ridiculous (especially at the end where the main bad guy stands around and gives a speech detailing how and why he did all these evil things, and it was just like watching an episode of Scooby Doo, and I expected him to say "I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids!" at any moment) but the opening credit sequence, where a bunch of people are massacred by killers dressed as clowns, is extremely creepy and well done. And really, the plot isn't THAT bad (I've seen MUCH worse) and it's extra fun if you can sit around with your friends and make fun of it while it's all happening. Suffice it to say that this isn't a film masterpiece, but it isn't a masterpiece of shit, either, so I definitely recommend it if you're a fan of low-budget horror movies with a lot of gore.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 49: Amityville II: The Possession

Why are there two movie posters for this movie, you may ask. Is Lillian getting senile in her old age? Yes, but there's a method to my madness here. A few years ago, I saw the first 90 minutes of this movie, and I loved them. I was haunted by their imagery, creeped out and uncomfortable by the skin-crawling events of the film, and ready to declare this movie a horror classic. The movie I was watching skipped and froze after the first 90 minutes, so I never got to see the rest, so I was excited to watch this movie for the challenge this year and figure out what I missed. Oh boy was I ever in for a surprise.

See, the first 90 minutes of this film ARE pretty brilliant, and creepy, and well-made, and all those other things I thought. Then, after 90 minutes, this movie ENDS...and is still inexplicably on for another 45 minutes after that. Another boring, tedious, stupid, ridiculous 45 minutes full of so many plot holes and leaps of logic and cheap looking "special" effects that I was literally yelling at my screen by the time the damn thing FINALLY ended. So the GOOD poster above? The creepy, haunting poster that tells the story of the family who lived in this house until they were attacked by an evil that corrupted them all and sucked them right into hell? That poster is for the first hour and a half of this movie; the good part. the second poster, which is hokey looking and full of special effects that look like they were made by a preschool class? That poster represents the second part of this movie, the part that sucks and ruins what could have been a great horror movie.

I'm not exaggerating here, folks. I wondered why so many people seemed to hate on this movie, and I watched the first 90 minutes, and I was blown away. The family is haunted before they even move into the house, with an abusive, overbearing father and a harried mother trying to hold everything together and a teenage daughter who is confused by her feelings for her older brother, and an older brother who is chafing under the stranglehold of his father, and a little brother and sister who are caught in the middle. The evil in the house exploits and amplifies the problems this family already has until everyone is in a state of terror, waiting to see what will happen when the other shoe drops. It's grueling to watch this poor family (well, except for the dad, I was ready to jump through the screen and kill him myself) and the family drama is done so well and woven so well with the supernatural happenings that I thought the movie was going to be great.

Then the final act comes and the movie turns into a huge pile of shit. The ending doesn't even make SENSE (I'm fairly certain that if you knock a police officer out with a gun and help a mental patient who is accused of murder escape from the facility where he is being held, that the cops are going to be pissed at you and they're going to come into the house and arrest you and not just take your friend's word when he walks out and says you're not inside). And that's just ONE of the 3923892389289903289329438939183 plot holes that are crammed into the worst 45 minutes of horror film footage ever made. UGH. It so effectively ruins what could have been a good movie that I seriously want to track down the filmmakers and beat them with a brick. I don't care if they made this movie over 30 years ago, they have it coming. Watch this movie and stop playing it after 90 minutes, and you'll enjoy it and think it's one of the best horror movies you've ever seen. Watch any more than that, and your brain will jump out one of your eye sockets and run away screaming. you have been warned.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 48: Darkness

I saw this movie twice in theaters when it came out, once dragging my friend Elijah to the bigger city an hour away from here so he could see it, too. I loved this movie and was excited about seeing it, and then I realized that every other horror fan seemed to HATE this movie and went around bashing it every chance they got. I didn't understand it then and I don't understand it now. People told me that I liked this movie once because I didn't know much about horror movies back then, but if I watched it now, I would realize why it was a bad movie and I wouldn't like it anymore. I can unequivocally say this is FALSE, because I watched it last week and loved it just as much then as I did when I saw it years ago. I love this movie, think it's great, and don't really get why other people seem to hate it so much.

Directed by Jaume Balagueró, who has become quite well-known in recent years for his brilliant [REC] films, this movie shows his talent for taking small spaces and common events and turning them on their heads until they become disorienting and frightening. The opening sequence grabs the viewer right from the beginning, as a group of children are kidnapped and brutally murdered, with only one child left alive because he somehow escaped and ran off through the woods, though he has no real memory of what happened to him or the other children. Cut to the present day, where we meet a family slowly coming apart at the seams. Anna Paquin is brilliant here as a teenage girl whose family has uprooted her and moved to Spain, taking her away from all her friends and dumping her in the middle of a country and a culture she doesn't like or understand. Her mother (played by Lena Olin) is cold and distant, basically telling her daughter to get over herself. Her father is suffering from a mysterious illness that causes him to break down under stress and lash out angrily at his family, and her little brother is sullen and quiet, scared of what is happening to his quickly unraveling family and equally terrified of whatever mysterious evil seems to be haunting their new house. Add to that a creepy old house filled with shadows and secrets, and you have the ingredients for a perfectly chilling haunted house story, and that's exactly what this movie delivers. Apparently it's not for everyone, but I love it, and the memory of it still occasionally haunts me on dark nights when the shadows in my room seem especially menacing.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 47: Pontypool

This is one of those movies that horror fans raved about so much after it came out, and everyone was telling me "OMG you HAVE to watch Pontypool!!!!!" and I was thinking "WTF does "Pontypool" mean?" I waited almost two years to finally get around to watching this, and I plugged my ears and ran away screaming anytime someone tried to spoil the movie for me, so I really had no idea what to expect. Having said all that, this movie blew me away. It isn't perfect, it has a few glaring flaws, but it's so entertaining and so different and so creative that it absolutely kicked ass and I loved it in spite of whatever flaws it may have had.

For the record, "Pontypool" is the name of a small town in Canada, and the small-town radio host (who used to be a big-time star and now resents working in a tiny town where he has to recite school closings and interview members of the community theater on air) is the star of this movie, along with his boss at the radio station, and a girl who answers phones and does fact-checking for the station. This three-person crew make up the bulk of the action in the movie, as things start to go very wrong in their isolated small town, on the same day a huge blizzard blows in, making their small town even more isolated from the rest of the world. These three actors rock HARD and manage to make the movie enthralling and never boring (which is a huge feat for a movie that takes place almost entirely within one small room). As the day drags on and they get more and more news reports of the strange and terrifying happenings in their town, they start to come unglued (which most people would do in such a situation, so it is totally believable, and we've come to like these characters, so it's hard to watch them fall apart like this). They have no ides what's going on at first, and watching them decipher the clues and figure out how to survive is riveting. This is a movie that takes a relatively old idea and breathes new life into it, making the old seem new again. I won't spoil it for you, so there's no need to plug your ears and run away screaming, but you should run to the video store now and buy or rent this movie so you can watch it, because it's THAT good.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 46: Night of the Demons (2010)

After the lackluster experience I had watching the original movie, I was less than excited about this remake, and it really is a pretty bad movie. The acting isn't that great, and do I really need to see a 10 minute long conversation among girlfriends about waxing during which one of them applies aloe to her crotch because the waxing has left uncomfortable burns? I don't object to nudity in movies, but this scene was gross and annoying and pointless, and we didn't even get to see said crotch area. I call foul. Nevertheless, this movie is actually ok, and it's probably better than the original taken as a whole, but the original movie had an opening scene and a closing scene that were just brilliant, and while this remake was better as a whole movie, nothing in this movie approached the brilliance of the opening and closing scene from the original movie. It's not a bad way to kill two hours though, and there's a disgusting scene involving a tube of lipstick that greatly improves upon a scene from the original movie (I'll leave the description of this scene up to your imagination).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 45: [REC]2

Oh my God, I loved this movie. I mean seriously LOVED this movie. Like I want to go out and buy it and watch it again right now. I am SO STOKED right now, you have no idea. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, because that's how I felt about the original movie after I'd seen it, but I thought with this movie...where the hell else are they going to go with this story? I mean, the original was shocking since it built up to its surprises, and people didn't know what was going to happen once they entered that apartment building, but now the cat is out of the bag (so to speak) and people know what's going on in that apartment (or they think they do, heh heh heh) so I honestly didn't see where else the story could go from here (except downhill, and that wasn't something I wanted to see). THIS is what a horror movie should do. Prove me wrong. Surprise me and keep me interested and show me that even when I think I've seen it all, I ain't seen nothing yet.

So y'all know the story here, right? A local news crew doing a community interest piece follows some firefighters around while they do their job one night, and they answer a distress call at an apartment building where an old lady is sick, and all hell breaks loose as they wind up trapped in a building with what seems to be a virus moving through the people in the building and turning them into rabid zombie-like creatures who are REALLY pissed off for some unknown reason. The local government is all about quarantining the people in the apartment to prevent the spread of the virus, and the people are trapped and freaked out as they get picked off one by one. It's a great little movie, and this movie picks up right where that one ended, with local troops being dispatched to go into the apartment and see what happened there. All is not as it seems though, and the troops haven't been told the whole truth, and they encounter something they never expected, and I have to shut up now before I give away everything that happens (I know, you're thinking "but you DID give everything away!" Not even close. that's what I thought too, but this movie surprised me more than I could have ever expected, and you should go out and watch it now and see what I mean, ok)?

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 44: The Human Centipede: First Sequence

I don't really know what to say about this movie. It's one of those movies where the subject matter is so gross that people pitch a fit about it without even having seen it, and they build the movie up to be the most disgusting thing ever filmed, and then the fans of really disgusting movies go and see it and they think it's boring, because it doesn't live up to the hype, and then some people go and see it and come back preaching about how it's "deeply moving" and it will "affect people emotionally and they can't deny its power" and then other people counter that flowery praise by saying "no, it didn't affect me deeply, it bored the fuck out of me" and people like me sit in the middle of all this controversy and don't know what to believe.

Here's my take: I liked this movie. I liked the two girls who appear at the beginning. Sure, they're kind of twits, but so was I at 22, and it's not like they're all that much more annoying than other horror movie characters, so I don't know why so many people complained about them being annoying. They're not that bad. And then people complained that they whined a lot. Ok, when you get captured by a killer who wants to sew you ass-to-mouth with two other people and turn you into a human centipede, and he drugs you and mutilates you, then you can come to me and brag about how you never whined or cried about it. For me, I didn't find their crying all that excessive. I'd be crying too if I were in that situation. Sure, I wouldn't be in that situation because I'd never go into this creepy asshole's house in the first place, especially after his first question to me when I came to his door was "Are you alone?" but it didn't bother me that these girls cried. I also found it kind of touching when they'd hold hands and try to comfort each other even after creepy freaky guy sews them together. Sue me. I wasn't "deeply emotionally scarred" by it or anything, but I felt bad for these people in this horrible situation.

That's another point I want to address: the gore we see onscreen. It's disgusting to think about what this freak does to these people, but the movie really doesn't "show" us that much gore. We get to see the people sewn together, and picturing what that would be like for them is disturbing, but as for actual gore, I've seen far gorier films. I guess with this movie, the premise either works or it doesn't. Either you get freaked out thinking about how horrible this situation would be, and you feel bad for the characters, and that keeps you interested in the movie even when it gets ridiculous (and believe me, it DOES stretch the limits of disbelief on more than one occasion) or it gets too ridiculous for you and the movie collapses under the weight of everything that doesn't work and you wind up not liking it. I can see how that could happen, too. People complain about the two girls being stupid, but holy batfuck batman, are the COPS in this movie a couple of boneheads. Seriously, they are the ones who piss me off, making some of the dumbest moves I've ever seen characters make onscreen. By the end of the movie I wanted to jump through the screen and kill them myself.

Speaking of the ending, it's really disturbing for me. I could see how for some people it would just be over-the-top and silly, but I'd managed to like the characters even through everything that happened, so I felt bad for their situation and the ending was suitably disturbing for me because of this. Ultimately, I found enough in this movie to enjoy, and I cared about the characters, so I was glad I watched it, even if the idea behind the movie is really gross. I don't get those people who read the description of the movie, knew what it was about, then walked into a screening of their own free will and ended up walking out. I read one review where the reviewer refused to write a review (nice show of dedication to your job there, buddy) and he actually said "I read the description, so I knew what the movie was about, and then I saw what was happening onscreen and I thought 'yep, they really ARE going to show this' and I walked out." I don't get statements like that. This is a movie about a creepy weirdo doctor who's so messed up he thinks he can destroy people's lives by experimenting on human beings and mutilating them and turning them into a grotesque creature...what did you think it was going to be about? Sorry, you don't get any brownie points from me for knowing what a movie is about and then walking out because the movie shows what it says it's going to show (and like I said, the movie isn't even THAT disturbing unless you've connected enough with the characters to care what they're going through onscreen, and if you've done that much, than the movie has some skill and effectiveness to recommend it, or you wouldn't have been affected that way). Right? I mean, if you're affected enough by the movie to walk out of it, then in some ways it must have done its job. If you walk out because you're bored, that's another thing I guess, but none of the early reviews said that; they all talked about having to leave because the movie was so disgusting, and I thought "well...yeah, isn't it supposed to be that way?"

I don't know if I can recommend this movie, because a lot of people I know and respect didn't like it, but I'm used to that. People usually don't like the movies I like anyway. As far as I'm concerned, this movie was worth a watch, so horror fans who can stomach the premise of the movie should at least give it a look before they dismiss it because of all the controversy.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 43: In Dreams

I was so aggravated after this movie ended that I decided to let it sit for awhile before I wrote my review to avoid snapping and screaming "OMG IT SUCKED" at the top of mu lungs, because the truth is, this movie DOESN'T suck...some parts of it are very well done, but they're bogged down by so much crap that it's hard to appreciate them. I finally realized today what it's like. It's like there is a good movie buried alive under a pile of shit, and it keeps trying to dig its way to the surface and every once in awhile a hand breaks free or a head pops up only to be forced back down by the weight of all the shit surrounding it.

Annette Benning gives an alternatingly good and annoyingly over-the-top performance here as a young mother who has been plagued by visions all her life, but recently she's been dreaming of a man killing children in an apple orchard, and when cvhildren really ARE disappearing in her town, that understandably scares her. Aidan Quinn is ok in his role as the not quite doting husband who is away all the time because his job takes him all over the world, but it's hard to blame him for cracking up a little when his wife goes completely apeshit halfway through the movie and she's screaming and ranting and raving and cutting herself and it's hard to know what's really happening and what's all in her head. I mean that for the audience too. I spent the better part of this movie wondering what the fuck I was seeing onscreen, and I'm still not sure. I think this movie was trying too hard to be symbolic and poetic and it slipped over the line into ridiculous territory instead. It's a shame, because there's a lot that could have been good here, and it's interesting to give the movie a watch, but don't expect it to make much coherent sense, and don't watch it with a migraine like I did, because it will just make things worse.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 42: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

I know I saw the original of this movie when I was a kid. I wasn't allowed to watch it, but I remember sneaking out and hiding behind the couch in my aunt and uncle's house and seeing parts of it. I don't remember it very well, but I remember enough to know I liked what I saw. I haven't gotten around to watching the original since then (I was about 6 or 7 when I first saw it) but when I got the chance to go see this remake in the cheapie theaters with a friend, I jumped at the chance.

I don't care what anyone else says, for my money, this was a good movie. It was creepy, I cared about the characters, and the acting was much better than I would have expected. Katie Holmes did a good job as the harried stepmother trying to connect with a stepdaughter who wants nothing to do with her, Guy Pearce is great as the idiot dad who is so focused on work that he doesn't realize that evil creatures in his creepy old house are focused on taking his daughter from him, and even the daughter did a good job playing her role. Kids can always be a gamble in any movie, but she managed to be annoying and rebellious while still making me care what happened to her. The creatures were creepy, too. they were exactly what would have made me terrified to look under the bed at 10 years old (and they were no picnic to see at 30, either). This isn't the pinnacle of cinematic genius or anything, but it was a lot of fun, enough to make me want to buy the DVD when it comes out.

Monday, October 17, 2011

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 41: Night of the Demons (1988)

This is one of those 80s horror flicks that I somehow managed to miss over the years, and I've always wanted to see it, so that could be part of why I was so let down when I finally did see it. Right from the beginning, ALL of the characters in this movie are complete assholes and they mock each other and act like jerks, and the first 45 minutes of this movie NOTHING really happens except we follow these jackasses around watching them treat each other like shit, and I was ready to jump through the screen and kill them all myself when something FINALLY happened and the demon action started. I guess after that it was ok, but I still didn't really like any of the characters so I got annoyed with them while they made some of the stupidest boneheaded moves I've ever seen and got picked off one by one. The movie really seemed to drag. The opening sequence and the closing sequence which feature a grouchy old man and his longsuffering wife are actually the best part of the movie, but I didn't appreciate having to sit through an hour and a half of bullshit to get there. This movie isn't as good as its reputation would lead you to believe. If I want to watch a kooky and cheesy 80s horror flick, "Return of the Living Dead" is lightyears better than this.

Friday, October 14, 2011

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 40: Wake Wood

I'm on a roll lately. Every movie I've watched has been good (knock on wood...haha, wood). This story particularly grabbed me. A mother and father are devastated when their daughter dies, and they move to a small village where the villagers have some strange customs. They learn that there is a ritual where the villagers can bring their daughter back for three days so they can see her one last time and say a proper goodbye. Nothing about this scenario sounds like a bad idea to them, so they agree, but will three days be enough time? Could there be consequences for trying to cheat death? The premise is compelling, the acting is good, and the story kept me guessing (plus the ending is just plain great). This one is highly recommended.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 39: Dead Snow

Everybody has been telling me for a few years that this movie is good, but I haven't had a chance to check it out until now. In this case, everyone was right, this movie is pretty awesome. At first I didn't like the main characters, 6 med school students heading into the mountains for a week-long ski trip in a friend's cabin, but as the movie went on, the characters kind of grew on me and I wound up rooting for them. This is the first "nazi zombie" movie I've seen (apparently there are several) and that premise sounds kind of dubious, but I guess it works as well as any other zombie movie. A character drops by randomly on the first night in the cabin to tell the story that serves as exposition here (Nazis occupied a town during the second world war, they tortured and mistreated the townspeople, the townspeople fight back and drive the Nazis into the mountains where they froze to death, their evil still exists and can bring them back to life to munch on anyone who disturbs their slumber, that kind of thing). It's a little silly, but there's enough gore and semi-likable characters to keep me entertained.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 38: The Roommate

This is another movie that people like to hate on. It's a kind of teen-lite version of Single White Female, which I remember from way back in the olden days (it's the definitive scary roommate movie). In this movie, two girls are tossed together as roommates at college and they become close friends, but one girl takes the "close friendship" idea too far. she goes from admiring her roommate to following her around, scaring off her other friends, trying first to control and then to take over her life. It's not an original premise, but "The Roommate" handles the subject matter well. Leighton Meester does a great job being the creepy roommate. Plotwise, it's pretty close to a carbon copy of "Single White Female," but again, it's not a bad watch. It was an ok way to kill an hour and a half, which is what I wanted. I'm really glad I live alone, though, because this movie combines with "Single White Female" make me leery about ever having roommates again.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 37: Quarantine 2: Terminal

I don't understand why so many people bash this movie so mercilessly. It's not a cinematic masterpiece or anything, but it's a fun little horror flick that tries to build on the story of "Quarantine." that's an important distinction...yes, "Quarantine" was a remake of the Spanish horror movie [REC] but it built its own little world and its own spin on the story, and this builds on that, it's not a remake of [REC 2]; at this point, the movie is doing its own thing. Someone said this movie is like a "Disney channel version of [REC 2]" but I don't know what disney Channel that guy watches, because this movie has gore and nastiness and a lot of gruesome stuff, and it's definitely not watered-down.

This movie picks up later on in the night of the first movie, where passengers aboard an airplane flying out of LA find themselves facing a rapidly spreading virus that causes people to snap and exhibit rabies-like symptoms, eventually turning and attacking and gnawing on the other passengers. Once they perform an emergency landing of the plane, they find themselves under lockdown at the Terminal and the government seems more intent on cutting them off from their means of communicating with the outside world than on helping them. It's bleak and icky and not half as bad as everyone says it is, so for my money, it's worth checking out.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 36: Bereavement

This is one of those movies that seems to bring out the rabid polar opposite opinions among horror fans. One side loves the movie and one side hates it, and they meet in the middle and fight to the death. I'm not going to pretend there aren't any really annoying parts in the movie (here, let's sit in the kitchen and talk about how this little boy has a condition called CIPA which renders him unable to feel pain, and how it's totally dangerous to leave him unsupervised, and leave him alone playing in the yard while we're talking and not even look out the window to make sure he's ok for like, thirty minutes) but I don't think it's totally fair to say that everyone in this movie is "terminally stupid" (as one reviewer put it). Well, ok, maybe it's not a good idea to scream and cry loudly while you're trying to sneak away from a murderer's house (unless he's deaf, which this victim is so loud while she's making her stealthy exit that he could probably hear her even if he was deaf) but...I dunno, characters have to be dumb in horror movies or otherwise the movie would be five minutes long. And really, most of the people complaining haven't ever been trapped in a killer's basement before, so they can't say they'd be way smarter if they were ever in that situation.

The killer in this movie is creepy as hell. Even creepier than hell. I'm pretty sure I'd rather take my chances in hell than try to navigate life without pissing off this guy. Ok, later on in the movie the main girl makes some boneheaded moves. It's probably not a great idea to walk into some random stranger's house, even if you think you're trying to help the little boy you're following around (seriously, who the hell just waltzes into someone's house like that? I grew up in the country and we were never that stupid, so don't try to hand me that excuse). And what's up with captain angrypants, the uncle from hell who does nothing but run around and scream at everyone for the entire running time of the movie? Dude, chill the fuck out. Seriously. I was ready to jump into the screen and kill him myself.

I have to say though, this movie it a cut above the director's earlier movie, "Malevolence," and it shows great improvement. That movie felt like five different movies tossed into a blender, and it frustrated me because there seemed to be some promise in the story there, but it just never came together for me. I definitely liked this movie better and am looking forward to seeing more from this filmmaker in the future.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 35: The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

This is one of my favorite horror movies of recent years. It's my favorite horror remake, hands down, and it's one of my favorite horror movies of all time. When it debuted in 2006 I went to a matinee showing the week after it was released, and I was so blown away that I went to see it four more times that week. I bought the DVD when it came out and I've watched it about ten times since then. When I first went to see it, I had never seen the original movie, so I knew it was about a family whose trailer breaks down in the desert and they get attacked by mutated cannibalistic humans who live in the desert and prey on travelers, but I didn't know anything else about it, so I had no idea what to expect and I was blown away at how much emotion the movie was able to wrench from me.

I cried when I first saw it in theaters at the big attack scene about an hour into the movie, I was sad and feared for the worst when the family decided they had to fight back, I flinched when I was sure I knew who was going to die, I was so impressed when that person finally fought back that I stood up and cheered before I remembered I was in the middle of a theater...the movie had that much power to move me then, and it hasn't lost any of that power over the years. I was surprised when the movie brought tears to my eyes again today, but I shouldn't have been. I guess it's been so long since I last saw the movie that I'd forgotten what made me go back to see it so many times.

I had a conversation once with some people who shall remain nameless. I went to see the Rob Zombie "Halloween" remake with them, and they were unimpressed with the movie and unimpressed with me for liking it, and when I mentioned that I had loved the "Hills have Eyes" remake, one of the group launched into a tirade about how this movie was sick and horrible and it had "things I didn't know they were allowed to put in movies," and how anyone who could say they "loved" this movie had something seriously wrong with them. I won't argue with you that there's something seriously wrong with me. I will say that you're far from the first person to suggest that, and if you think, after a few hours of knowing me, that you can point out anything "bad" about me that I haven't already noticed myself after living with myself for thirty years, then you're not as smart as you obviously think you are. I will say that I'm confronted with evil in the world around me every day, that sometimes it's so strong and so prevalent that it seems hopeless and it brings me to my knees and I don't know how I'll go on, and that every time that happens, somehow I get up and I DO go on, and I'm still here and still fighting.

I've never seen a movie before or since where characters faced such evil and yet managed to fight back, even when it seemed hopeless, even if it turns out to be hopeless after all, and they're limping and weakened and covered with blood, but they're still going and they're still alive, and no matter what happens after the end credits roll, that's what will stick with me. It's exactly what I needed to see then, it's exactly what's made me come back to the movie so many times in the years since I first saw it, and it's exactly what I needed to see again today. I'm not saying that's normal, or that there isn't anything wrong with that. Hell, I'd be surprised if there weren't anything wrong with me after everything that's happened in this life, everything I've seen, but this movie makes me want to keep going and keep fighting, and for me, that makes watching it worthwhile. Again and again and again.