Friday, October 31, 2014

My Tops of 2014 - October

THE EQUALIZER was a satisfactory action flick, badly lit finale aside.

A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES was a welcome throwback to pulpy noirs and featured another great performance by Liam Neeson.

ROAD TO PALOMA was the 2nd most pretentious vanity take of Easy Rider I have ever seen.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE has a game Eva Green but it's a boring video-game-like action-fest.

A HAUNTED HOUSE 2 was an unbearable laugh-free movie and made me long for another Scary Movie.

OCULUS brought some chills with its mirror play and parental abuse.

THE ROVER was a basic revenge tale but the acting and its sci-fi elements gave it some life.

NURSE is my most hated movie of 2014.

KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM had some charm to it but was mostly ruined by its producers' philandering with the film.

DEVIL'S DUE was yet another bad found footage horror movie and it will eventually disappear into the ether.

BANG BANG! rehabilitated Knight and Day and brought a lot of fun to the table.

OBVIOUS CHILD had a honest and funny take on modern romance and pregnancy drama, largely thanks to Jenny Slate's phenomenal lead performance.

12 films this month. In the next 61 days, I'm going to have to play catch up fast.

Still no re-watch of Under the Skin. I'm a bad 'lil boy.

Similar to what I experienced last year, I seem to avoid the movie theaters during October. I've been kicking myself for still not paying a ticket to see Gone Girl, The Boxtrolls, Fury, and The Book of Life.

Best Films of 2014

1. The Lego Movie

2. The Raid 2

3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

4. Snowpiercer

5. Guardians of the Galaxy

6. Boyhood

7. The Grand Budapest Hotel

8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

9. Muppets Most Wanted

10. Under the Skin

11. Obvious Child

Worst Films of 2014

1. God's Not Dead

2. A Million Ways to Die in the West

3. Atlas Shrugged: Part III

4. A Haunted House 2

5. Nurse

6. The Other Woman

7. Heaven Is For Real

8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

9. Winter's Tale

10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

11. I, Frankenstein

12. Son of God

13. The Legend of Hercules

14. Tarzan

15. Enemies Closer

16. Welcome to the Jungle

17. The Nut Job

18. Devil's Due

My Horror/Halloween Hit List

Throughout this month, I have been watching and reviewing horror or horror-themed films in honor of the Halloween spirit. Along with the mandatory film of the day, as well as any additional movie added to a certain day. This is all of the movies I watched for the first time or re-watched:

The ABCs of Death
Argento's Dracula
Creepshow 2
The Dark
Deep Red (Profondo Rosso)
Devil's Due
Dog Soldiers
Garth Marenghi's Darkplace
The Giant Claw
Halloween II
A Haunted House 2
Jack Frost
Mad Ron's Prevues from Hell
Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge
The Prowler
Q - The Winged Serpent
Return of the Killer Tomatoes!
Rifftrax Live!: Anaconda
Terminator II (Shocking Dark)
Toy Story of Terror!
Trick 'r Treat
The Undying Monster
The Ward
White Zombie
Witch's Night Out
Witchfinder General (The Conqueror Worm)
Zombie Lake

37 works this year. Pretty much everything I said in October of last year can be copied and pasted: the fun daily reviews took time away from writing up 2014 film reviews, didn't watch a whole franchise yet again (Final Destination was my choice), and I missed out on watching several movies I wanted to do (Stephen King's It, The Loved Ones, The Strangers, Let the Right One In, Jim Mickie Double Feature, New French Extremity, etc). Will I do it again next year? Perhaps.

To end this trek in grand fashion, let's hand out some awards!

Best Film (First Watch) - Trick 'r Treat
Best Film (Re-Watch) - Seven
Worst Film - Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated
Worst Horror Film of 2014 - Nurse
Best Kill - Shotgun head explosion (The Prowler)
Worst Kill - Any of the deaths from Killdozer
Most WTF Kill - Death by giant mantis (Argento's Dracula)
Best "Gotcha!" Ending - The protagonist gets his dick ripped off! (Pieces)
Worst "Gotcha!" Ending - I'm in the medicine cabinet! (The Ward)
Best Film Score - Deep Red
Worst Makeup - The zombies in Zombie Lake
Best Flying Monster - Q - The Winged Serpent
Worst Flying Monster - The Giant Claw
Best Episode of Darkplace - "Hell Hath Fury"
Best Shorts in The ABCs of Death - "D", "O", "Q", "R", "T", "U", "X"
Best Trailer in Mad Ron's - Carnage
Best Dancing Scene - Mark Patton moves to Fonda Rae's "Tuch Me" (Elm Street 2)
2nd Best Dancing Scene - Mädchen Amick rocks to The Contours' 90's take of "Do You Love Me" (Sleepwalkers)
3rd Best Dancing Scene - The patients groove to The Newbeats' "Run Baby Run" (The Ward)
Worst Dancing Scene - Brian Krause and Alice Krige swoon to Santo & Johnny's "Sleepwalk" (Sleepwalkers)
Best Dog - Sam (Dog Soldiers)
Best Cat - Clovis (Sleepwalkers)

Horrors of October - Killdozer (#31)

Killdozer (1974)

Yeah, I know, not exactly a horror classic to watch on Halloween but that's what happens when you're busy with work and parties. A bulldozer hits a giant meteorite, causing it to emit a blue light and seemingly transfer an alien soul into the construction vehicle. It then goes on a rampage, picking off a small group of workers one by one. KILLDOZER is best remembered to this day for it ridiculously awesome title, which has helped make it one of the most memorable TV movies from the 70s boom. However, anyone who has ever watched it certainly knows that it not only doesn't live up to the shallow hype but it's actively a boring watch, even with a 73 minute running time. Character actors Clint Walker, Neville Brand, and Robert Ulrich just deliver the bland dialogue as stiff as a man who has taken four Viagra pills. The direction is flat and the action is pitiful to say the least, often featuring the dozer slowly wrecking havoc and the human characters performing absolutely stupid actions like crawling into a loose pipe or keep sitting in a car. Also, the possessed vehicle somehow understands the methods of human survival and is able to sneak up on his prey multiple times, despite lumbering around like a mechanical sloth and emitting noise and ground vibrations. You're better off reading the original novella than sitting through this.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Horrors of October - Rifftrax Live!: Anaconda (#30)

Rifftrax Live!: Anaconda (2014)

I just got back from the event, so you're getting my initial impressions. Broadcasted live in select theaters through Fathom Events, the Rifftrax crew returned to the big screen to do a thorough ribbing on the 1997 B-movie ANACONDA. If you compare the show to their previous live events, it's certainly a lesser comedic showing from Mike, Bill, and Kevin but it still delivered plenty of laughs. The show kicked off with the timely short "Halloween Party", where the titled event only comes at the very end and it's pretty pitiful. Most of the jokes center around its strange protagonist, the vicious-looking German Shepherd who saves a Ron-Howard-looking kid from a lifetime of the embarrassment by destroying his paper bag mask of a cat-man thingy. To make lemonade out of lemons, his mother dresses him up as, and I quote, "Lady Scarecrow". A very weird short that helps kick off the festivities. The trio then followed that up with a couple of announcements: another event in December to re-do the MST3K favorite SANTA CLAUS and another television special on the National Geographic Channel. Their preview for the latter was some riffing of the show "Man V. Monster"; they mercilessly destroyed it back on April Fool's Day and they once again here targeted the bullshitting Englishman and his stupid journey to find mythical creatures that do not exist at all. When the deadly monster was revealed as possibly being a snake, the guys then segued into the main feature, but not before Bill flubbed humorously by saying that it starred Jennifer Lawrence. The majority of the time was spent on heavily mocking Jon Voight's infamous accent and utterly bizarre mugging. However, the biggest guffaws came from sex jokes, whether it was when Eric Stoltz "flashed" Jennifer Lopez, the running gag of Owen Wilson being horny, or Ice Cube freaking out at the possibility of a fish entering through his dick. Personally, I've always enjoyed this creature feature, haters be damned, yet I still had a fun night watching it be torn to shreds.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Horrors of October - Sleepwalkers (#29)

Sleepwalkers (1992)

Stephen King wanted to do something really special for his first screenplay written for the screen. Maybe he first thought about doing a werewolf feature but knew he would have a hard time topping Joe Dante and John Landis' visions, giving them cameos in the eventual film instead. Then one stormy night, he got his brilliant idea: werecats. Not just any werecats but werecats that are incestuous, need virgin blood to survive, can cloak themselves and objects somehow, have unexplainable psychic powers, and look like giant fetuses in their true form. He followed all of this up with their one true weakness: a scratch from a normal cat! By this point, you can probably tell that SLEEPWALKERS is a gloriously stupid disasterpiece. King spun out a ultra weird world where nothing makes any sense and director Mick Garris heightened the strangeness and cheap quality by shooting the film on studio backlots. However, the real issue with the picture is that it's never scary; there are several shots of an ever-expanding collection of cats surrounding the werecats' house and the only human response to it is sheer laughter. If you drop your taste buds and let the bad acting talent of Brian Krause, the tortuous dialogue, the crappy one-liners, and the dumb kills flow all over you, you will surely have a blast with the film. To be fair, there are a couple things that save it as a serious film, such as Mädchen Amick's perkiness, Alice Krige's slow-burn insanity, and a soundtrack that contains "Sleepwalk" and Enya's "Boadicea" (aka the beat to Fugees' "Ready or Not"). Nevertheless, this one stinks oh so good.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Horrors of October - Q - The Winged Serpent (#28)

Q - The Winged Serpent (1982)

The mythical Azteca god Quetzalcoatl is rampaging the rooftops and skyline of NYC, that is when people actually come into contact with it or able to spot the giant flying lizard. The superbeast may have to do with some human sacrifice-like murders that are being investigated by two cops (David Carradine, Richard Roundtree), but the only one who can truly save the city is a money-hungry wiseguy (Michael Moriarty). Cult film director Larry Cohen definitely knows how to make a cheeky low-budget monster movie and keep the action going. The movie instantly starts off with a window-washer getting a fly-by decapitation and goes full blown gonzo from there, producing a gruesome flailed corpse and even a precursor scene of RESERVOIR DOGS. The movie has an absolute breezy tone to it, often juxtapositioning the monster's terror with random New Yorkers shooting the shit or being mildly inconvenienced by the creature. The innate humor can even be easily seen by gleaming the title; knowing that many potential viewers would have a hard time pronouncing the bird's name at the ticket booth, and shown with Carradine's own struggle to say it and still be seen as a serious detective, Cohen simplified it to just a letter (the subtitle was added later to further help identification) and tied it with a clever tagline. Of course, there are times where the lightness of the plot doesn't generate much momentum or suspense, such as when the authorities locate the serial killer, and the special effects are very outdated and crudely made. But you can forgive those shortcomings, especially with the witty rapport among the actors. The only actor capable of being as deliciously showy as the stop-motion lizard is Moriarty, who does a great job layering his character with different dimensions, making you laugh at him one minute, annoy you the next, and then either break your heart or go absolutely cold. Give this enjoyably absurd film about an absurdly named diety a watch.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Horrors of October - Mad Ron's Prevues from Hell (#27)

Mad Ron's Prevues from Hell (1987)

Not to sound like a cranky old man but back in the day, before the internet was everywhere, you couldn't really find or learn about many rare horror movies beyond a lucky cassette at the video store or in a movie book/magazine/fanzine. Finding footage of it or a trailer was even more of a pickle. Released in 1987, MAD RON'S PREVUES FROM HELL would have certainly been one of the few dream rentals, a true horror buff's golden idol during the video boom. The independent direct-to-VHS movie is a compilation of horror trailers and TV spots, from the iconic "It's only a movie..." preview for THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT to the obscurely artsy cut of CARNAGE (aka BAY OF BLOOD) to pure junk like THE GHASTLY ONES. It's a hour and half soaked in vicious slashers, theatre gimmicks, graphic gore, blood spills, freaks, corpses, and plenty of spoilers. And it's all preserved in that glorious tracking-heavy SP quality, even on DVD and streaming. To push the running time, the makers added some shot-on-video segments with a movie buff and his zombie puppet, cracking lame jokes and doing bits while making sure to sedate the large group of zombies who have invaded their movie theater. While all this might sound like a perfect video to air continuously during your Halloween party, this strictly is for hardcore fans only. Not only is there a lot of movie viscera throughout, there is some footage of real animal killings and dead human bodies sadly sprinkled in, mostly from the utterly distasteful AFRICA: BLOOD AND GUTS. Then there's the weird ones, like the necrophiliac LOVE ME DEADLY and non-applicable porno WILDCAT WOMEN IN 3D. Plus, there's one trailer that is nothing more than a seizure-inducer. Though I won't blame you for fast-forwarding through these nightmare fuels, the rest of the movie is worthy of a watch for those who seek the grindhouse experience. Also, do not check out its 25-years-in-the-making sequel CELLULOID BLOODBATH; it's very boring and is more of an interview clipshow than a bundle of trashy trailers.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Horrors of October - Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (#26)

Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988)

Taking place several years after the first film aka "The Great Tomato War", evil mad scientist Prof. Gangreen (John Astin) experiments on the banned fruit/vegetable in order to create an army of tomato-Rambos and take over the world. But he's distracted and distraught by the disappearance of his human-tomato assistant Tara, who with a fuzzy tomato named F.T. shacks up with a pizza maker, who just so happens to be the nephew of war hero Wilbur Finletter. I'm actually a fan of the infamous cult film ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES! and I have always enjoyed this, the first sequel to a franchise that would have otherwise stopped after the first one. The majority of the horror-comedy's jokes are self-referential, constantly poking fun at the film's low budget, the quality of its storytelling, and its basement-level special effects. In its most famous moment, the film literally stops and the makers go on camera to argue about how to keep the project going; the only solution, as thought up by George Clooney (yes, that one), is rampant product placement. Cut to a gluttony of winking and pandering to products like Pepsi and Corn Flakes. The one who generates the best laughs is Olympic Gold Medal Winner Steve Lundquist, who plays Gangreen's other assistant Igor, who's actually a would-be news reporter that prays at the altar of Diana Sawyer. Now, of course, this B-movie buffoonery can't glean over the movie's faults, with the biggest issue being that it never really focuses on Gangreen nor establishes him as a big threat until the last act. Plus, the weird nonsensical humor and hard-to-swallow premise will have the easily offended quickly turning it off. Results will certainly vary on this film, so you can take my high review grade with a grain of salt (get it?).


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Horrors of October - White Zombie (#25)

White Zombie (1932)

A soon-to-wed couple vacationing in Haiti come into contact with a voodoo priest (Bela Lugosi), who wishes to add the pure-white bride to his collection/army of "the living dead". Though more well known nowadays as the inspiration for the name of the 90s metal band fronted by Rob Zombie, WHITE ZOMBIE was the first full-blown horror movie to explore and utilize the concept of a zombie. Here, the undead creature is still associated with its roots in voodoo and supernatural beliefs, acting more as an unexpressive goon/toy for Lugosi instead of the later popular view of a rotting cannibal. For the most part, the movie draws a lot of scares and creeps from its unsettling sights. The best of director Victor Halperin's ideas are the recurring image of Lugosi's intense stare, which certainly makes a grand entrance into the picture, and a ghastly human-like screech from a vulture. Also, since the movie came out before the strict enforcement of the Hays Code, it matches the haunting sets and dark lighting with twisted sexual themes and grim violence. But not everything truly works in this horror classic, such as the severely lackluster main protagonist and the all-around bad acting (excluding Lugosi of course!). It also suffers from moments where you can't exactly figure out what's going on, like when Lugosi just stands there doing his finger thingy in front of his opponents, even though he has no zombies left to throw at them. However, the biggest issue with watching the film was its public domain print, which contained several jump cuts that ruined several important and impressively shot scenes. Still, if you really want to watch the grandfather of the zombie genre and see one of the icons of horror in a different sinister role, look no further than this.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Horrors of October - Argento's Dracula (#24)

Argento's Dracula (2012)

Remember what I said I would do if I met John Carpenter? Well, it looks like I'll have to have a second plate of tazing because I now want to verbal abuse Dario Argento. Though his earlier works of art are amazing, as seen on Day #1 with DEEP RED, his talents as a filmmaker rapidly dwindled once the 90's hit. He continued to plunge further and further past the bottom of the barrel, with this being his most recent and absolute worst film. Yet another loose adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel, ARGENTO'S DRACULA is nearly two hours of appalling creative decisions. For example, instead of transforming into just a bat and a wolf, Count Dracula here thinks its cooler to kill his prey as an owl, an annoying fruit fly, and a giant-sized praying mantis. I am not making any of that up. There's more crap to go through: Scenes set at night but shot on a very sunny day; shots of dogs that happy and heavily breathing, yet they are supposed to be evil wolves and supplied with a soundtrack of growls; dreadful acting all around, from Thomas Kretschmann and Asia Argento's incomprehensible mumbling to Unax Ugalde's wooden approach and bland dubbing; many side-stories that go absolutely nowhere and included solely for padding; CGI work ripped straight from a Playstation 1 video game; Claudio Simonetti's pathetic score that sounds like it belongs to a 50's sci-fi z-movie; Rugteur Hauer as the most senile and depressed Van Helsing ever, yet has the cheap power of one-hit-kill, etc. Argento churned out a film that even The Asylum would laugh at and reject upon its first frame. At least those guys aren't pretentious and know to throw some humor in when the budget and talent is less than zero.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Horrors of October - Witchfinder General (#23)

Witchfinder General (1968)

aka THE CONQUEROR WORM, which is the name Roger Corman's AIP studio gave it for America in order to further cash in on the popularity of their Poe pics, where Vincent Price was often the main star. This British horror film has nothing to do with the Poe poem, instead featuring a fictionalized story around real-life figure Matthew Hopkins, a 17th-century Parliament official who went from town to town in order to purge those of whom "practiced" witchcraft and "worshipped" Satan. Price naturally plays Hopkins, often sharing the screen with his sadism-happy enforcer Robert Russell, and like the professional actor that he is, he doesn't exhibit any of his usual camp behaviors and tics for this character. He's instead cold and calculating, playing a man that wholehearted believed his "righteous" ways in order to be paid in large sums of coin and to exploit the female flesh. Which leads us to the elephant in the room: this movie is extremely disturbing. The interrogation and trial scenes all relish the sight of crimson blood, torturous depravities, and closeups of smiling brutes. The first set of theses goes on for a great stretch of time, completely shutting down the rest of the plot in order for more rape and cruelty. Eventually, we do get back to our dashing soldier and his quest to save his girl and have his revenge, but that of course just leads to more violence and more sadism. Though I was shocked by how dark the film would often get, I was still enjoying the marvels and sheer audacity that director Michael Reeves would display, especially given the time of its release. But what really sealed the deal for me, however, to recommend this flick was its bold ending; the concluding catharsis is so disturbing, the remaining characters are either praying for God's forgiveness or screaming themselves into madness.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Horrors of October - Trick 'r Treat (#22)

Trick 'r Treat (2007)

TRICK 'R TREAT is not only one of the absolute best horror movies in recent years, it is a refreshing return to traditional horror movies set on Halloween to not involve a mask-wearing slasher. The film contains several different stories, all taking place in an unknown American suburb (which was naturally shot in Vancouver): a couple who wish to end the spooky festivities mid-celebration, a creepy school principal (Dylan Baker) who enjoys handing out more tricks than treats, a group of girlfriends trying to push their Red-Riding-Hood-wearing wallflower (Anna Paquin) into fulfilling her dream of "the first time", a ragtag gang of kids snatching up pumpkins in order to pay tribute to some lost souls, a black-masked vampire roaming through the streets, and a decrepit old man (Brian Cox) who's being terrorized by something throughout his house. Each of the stories intertwine with one another, making this a hyperlink movie, and a character in each of them come into contact with a costumed boy named Sam, who may or not be a demon. I'm stretching the truth a little bit with the plot because the stories led to some surprising twists. The movie is just flat-out amazing in all departments, delivering many great visuals and creepy imagery, a killer score, a lot of laughs, impressive visual effects, and fantastic performances from all of the actors. Pretty much the only problem I had while sitting down and watching it is that the DVD version doesn't have a commentary track, as I really wanted to see it again and listen to writer-director Michael Dougherty's thoughts. Now, you may ask yourself, how come you never heard about this sooner? It was completed and set for theatrical release in 2007, but it was instead blackballed and thrown back into the vaults by Warner Bros. Many say the reason was to punish the film's producer Bryan Singer over the lackluster reception to SUPERMAN RETURNS. Two years later, after a series of public screenings that generated much critical acclaim, the movie finally was released on video and has developed a strong cult following since. The hype was justifiable and this certainly lived up and exceeded my expectations.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Horrors of October - Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated (#21)

Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated (2009)

Not to be confused with the similarly named NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: RE-ANIMATION, a false prequel to the zombie classic, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: REANIMATED is a fan-make of the zombie classic. The movie does retain a novel idea: animators from all around the world recreated scenes from the Romero movie in their own personal style, which would then be compiled together, synched up with the original movie's audio track, and be released on DVD. The final product, however, ended up being the absolute worst movie I had to sit through for this month; I gladly would watch ZOMBIE LAKE three times in a row than lay bare to witness this abysmal piece of shit. The biggest issue of the film is that it switches animation styles nearly every second. Not a set amount of time like the recent STAR WARS fan-makes, I literally mean every second. For example, the famous opening scene where Barbra is attacked by a creepy old man at the graveyard goes from comic book format, to painting, to machinima, to anime on a dime. How can any understand what's going on in the scene? Which then leads to the second problem: Anyone who hasn't seen and/or know the original film by heart will never be able to comprehend the story. Then, there's the actual quality of all of the animation, which admittedly looks college-level to below but is still an absolute mess. There's a ton of compression on most of the works, causing the shots to smear or tear themselves apart. Plus, most of the stuff isn't something you call animation: puppetry is not animation, physically moving Barbie dolls isn't animation, pan and scan isn't animation, and one or two individual paintings aren't animation, let alone an animatic. This is the kind of shit that may wow the losers at an art exhibit but for home or public viewing, it's a god damn abomination. Stay far, far, far away from this thing.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Horrors of October - Pieces (#20)

Pieces (1982)

This exploitation "classic" knows how to kick off the proceedings: A mother is berating his son for possessing a nudie puzzle (?) and he responds by delivering a few axe whacks to her brain, sawing her head completely off, then framing it like somebody else did it! The movie follows this up with a 40-year jump in time, where an unnamed Boston university is being terrorized by a chainsaw-wielding, body-part-picking serial killer. Gee, I wonder if the prologue gives us a clue, informing us that the murderer is someone in his late-40's, early 50's and likes to be the one in power? Be warned, PIECES is an extremely sleazy slasher. Some of the kills fetishize the nude female body and there are some disgusting decisions, such as a closeup of a woman peeing her pants before being chainsawed in half. When it isn't being creepy, the film goes absolutely bonkers. A skateboarding female student crashes into a giant mirror and it's never expounded upon again, people keep tampering with evidence and nonchalantly apologize, a world-famous tennis champion is an undercover cop and at one point is attacked by a clone of Bruce Lee, and the film literally ends with a zombie viciously castrating the male Mary Sue! Who created this strange organism? Juan Piquer Simón, the same guy whose film POD PEOPLE was famously lampooned by Mystery Science Theater 3000 (this film also stars the "Idiot Control" guy!), and would later do the unintentionally hilarious "animals attack" movie SLUGS. Because of its sheer lunacy and memorable murders, I bumped my grade up a tiny bit for what is otherwise a sordid horror film.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Horrors of October - Leprechaun (#19)

Leprechaun (1993)

Since I was planning on watching WWE Films' failed reboot of this infamous horror series later this month, I decided to re-watch the one that started it all. A leprechaun (Warwick Davis) busts out of the crate he was magically locked away in, still thirsting to reclaim the bag of gold that was "stolen" from it. Even though the culprit no longer lives in the house where he was imprisoned, the mythical creature instead takes his frustration out on the group of people that are currently there, including a pre-fame Jennifer Aniston and Pee-Wee/Teen Wolf-less Mark Holton. That's pretty much why this movie is still memorable to this date: The first major role for the future (overrated) A-list actress, who is frankly okay here as a Valley Girl temporarily residing in North Dakota. But what makes the movie shine is Davis, who expertly stands on the razor edge between campy and creepy as the titled villain. He's further helped by a memorable costume design and some good-for-B-movie-standards makeup. And that's all the positives I can really muster for what is a substandard fantasy horror movie. The creature's ever-expansive powers are barely explained, the body count is low (only 4 bodies present), the direction consistently moves from cribbing EVIL DEAD to straight-up Looney Tunes, there's a lot of padding, and the 90's fashion is pretty hideous/hilarious. Perfect to kill a afternoon or use as background noise. You better off having you mind blown with the later sequels, whether it is when Davis heads to space or hangs out with Ice-T in the hood.


Obvious Child - Review

Stand-up comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) flounders one night, largely thanks to the emotional baggage of a bad breakup, but later hits it off with a patron (Jake Lacy) over some drinks. Several weeks after the one night stand, she realizes that she's pregnant and begins to stew over both her decision for an abortion (on Valentine's Day, of course) and whether or not to tell the guy of her personal situation. At first, I was very hesitant with OBVIOUS CHILD, as it seemed to head done the usual path for all ultra-quirky indies. The stand-up comedy wasn't very funny, especially in later cutaways, and the kooky props and set-pieces such as a non-imperialistic bookstore had me irking. But once the plot officially kicks in and Donna makes some really dark jokes during her failed set, I was firmly onboard and enjoying the ride. The movie is a rom-com with a honest depiction of a semi-ordinary woman; I say semi-ordinary because I can't think of someone with a Jim Henson-like father (Richard Kind) and a professor mother (Polly Draper). See what I mean about the quirkiness? Anyway, what I mean to say is that OBVIOUS CHILD takes a more truthful look at a woman's right to choose while tangled up with a potential romantic partner than say JUNO; the scenes of Donna at Planned Parenthood are played straight and though Slate and Lacy have a growing chemistry with each other, they don't instantly hook up, not even towards the end. Even the political naysayers will have to agree that Slate delivers a magnificent performance, perfectly delivering laughs and heartbreaks with each passing scene. A refreshing indie and a great start for writer-director Gillian Robespierre.


Bang Bang! - Review

Lonely bank receptionist Harleen (Katrina Kaif) takes a chance on the online dating site She arrives for the scheduled date at a restaurant, only to instead be wined and dined by intruding master thief Rajveer (Hrithik Roshan), who just pulled off the major score of stealing the "Koh-i-Noor" diamond. Because of this meet cute, Harleen has to join Rajveer's globe-hopping quest to avoid the detection of the authorities and sell the diamond to a criminal kingpin, who also is sending goons after them to save a couple million dollars. As they are firing bullets and stealing cars, Rajveer teaches Harleen to kick her bucket list ASAP and know the difference between being transported to a safe house and a "safe house". Does that last note sound a bit familiar? That's because BANG BANG! is a Bollywood remake of KNIGHT AND DAY, except that it is far, far better.

I was not enamored at all by that pathetically awful Cruise-Diaz picture, so any changes and revisions are guaranteed to be beneficial. Thankfully, there are a lot of changes to the formula brought on by director Siddharth Anand and his crew. The threats are more believable, the jokes and comedic foils are actually funny, the on-location set-pieces all look gorgeous, and the action sequences are better thought out and badass, with the true highlight being the first display of flyboarding on film. The biggest tradeoff, however, is that the movie is enriched with product placement for Mountain Dew and Pizza Hut, with the latter serving as an important factor in the pre-intermission cliffhanger. Roshan is amazingly great as the chaotic neutral Rajveer. He's a cool action hero (doing all of his stunts), a sweet charmer, more shredded than lettuce, and once again shows off his fantastic dancing skills. Kaif is very cute as the lovably ditzy Harleen, able to fit in better as a believable normal woman than Diaz. As for the music, bring you earplugs because it is a total fest for EDM. I personally enjoy all of the wub-wubs and high-octane beats, so I was invigorated by Vishal-Shekhar's score. Only possessing four tracks, the film's best musical breaks were its bookends: the street dance party of "Tu Meri" and the disco/Michael Jackson coda of the titled tune. Don't say you'll watch it "one day"; give it a shot when you have the chance to see it in theaters.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Horrors of October - The Giant Claw (#18)

The Giant Claw (1957)

An untrackable UFO, described by every unfortunate observer as being "a flying battleship", is later identified to be a giant hawk. Yes, when I think of a hawk, I too think of a big machine that can only move on water. But it gets better: Turns out this hawk is actually an alien, which flew in from outer space with its "protective energy shield", in order to conquer the skies of Earth and spread its seed. Then comes the money shot at 28 minutes, when the hawk is revealed fully to the audience and looks to be the worst marionette of a turkey ever made. THE GIANT CLAW is one of the most infamous Z movies of all time thanks largely to the cheap design of its monster, which spouts a thinned-out mohawk, bugged out eyes, nearly immovable claws, and a lot of strings. The film's most famous story is that the actors weren't aware of what the creature would look like, so their serious reactions and constant mentions of it being battleship-shaped make the schadenfreude ever so sweeter. Whenever you aren't laughing at the terrible puppet and its woeful tour of destruction, you are treated to a bunch of long pulpy conversations scenes, often taking place in interchangeable sets, and a large collection of stock footage, including stolen scenes from more popular films. My favorite non-turkey scene is the one set on an airplane, where our leads flirt over rapey kisses and baseball jargon, plus figure out the creature's pattern through sheer lunacy. THE GIANT CLAW certainly is one of the worst monster movies but damn if it isn't breezy and fun every time I watch it. And if you plan a group screening, make sure to do a drinking game for every time the characters say the word "battleship".


Friday, October 17, 2014

Horrors of October - Toy Story of Terror!, Witch's Night Out (#17)

Toy Story of Terror! (2013)

I wanted to check out some Halloween TV specials that don't feature that dumb blockhead and picked out these two. First, we have one of the few things Pixar is still doing well at. Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jesse and a few other toys are going on a short vacation with Bonnie, only to experience the unfortunate scenario of a flat tire on a stormy night. Checked into a road hotel for the night, the toys venture out of the suitcase and find themselves in their own personal horror film. TOY STORY OF TERROR! has the window dressing of a Halloween special when it is in fact more of a serial script for an unplanned TV series. The main conflict is Jesse's relapse of her claustrophobia, the trauma that was an important part of her character in the second film. Obviously, she finds a way to deal with in the end in order to help save the day. Though I knock it for not being very Halloweeny, the half-hour short does use the storytelling techniques of a scary movie, though with a child-friendly, comedic bent. I was kinda taken aback with the few lightly sinister moments, such as how Jesse being buried alive echoes THE VANISHING and how the true antagonist has a character design and a back-room that screams "serial killer". But I'm getting a little off the path because the short is just a fun delight, especially whenever Combat Carl is present. If you pick this up on video, you also get the previous three amazing TOY STORY TOONS that premiered in theaters.


Witch's Night Out (1978)

This Halloween short is far more obscure but the fine people at Mill Creek Entertainment have recently given it a proper video release. A Canadian production that premiered on NBC back in 1978, and featured voice work from Gilda Radner and Catherine O'Hara, WITCH'S NIGHT OUT is one of those strange oddities that sprinkles some of its charm on you or at least is too weird enough to not forget about. A sequel to another holiday-themed short THE GIFT OF WINTER, where the "colored" characters are better established, the film largely follows two kids who are dismayed at the lack of spooky revelry among the adults and a lonely witch who just wishes there were wishes for her to grant. Sure enough, these people meet up, the kids transform into the monsters they were trick-or-treating as, some misunderstandings happen, and everybody is reunited for some holiday cheer. WITCH'S NIGHT OUT honestly isn't a true lost masterpiece, especially when it suffers from all-around awkward animation, which gets so unprofessional that the frame markers and other production notes along the margins were photographed. However, it possesses that right amount of weird zaniest to it and the whole affair is fairly lightweight, so you can burn through it with ease.


Devil's Due - Review

Newlyweds Zach and Samantha (Zach Gilford and Allison Miller) spend their honeymoon in the Dominic Republic, where of course the white couple suffer at the hands of the Latino peril. Caught on a SD card the idiots didn't think of checking out or showing to their friends when they return home, Samantha is impregnated with a demon child, which causes her to experience strange behaviors and be spied on by a group of Satanists. I can't really express much about DEVIL'S DUE because it literally left my attention and memory as soon as I touched the stop button. When I say there were no scares, I truly mean it because there are no "boo"'s, no real jumps implemented by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, two members of Radio Silence. Many will mock this failed found footage horror movie as a rip-off of ROSEMARY'S BABY but I was more appalled at how Olpin and Gillett shamelessly self-plagiarized their short from V/H/S for this movie's lame finale. The two leads try their best but this pathetic attempt to replicate the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise is not even worthy of a dollar rental.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Horrors of October - The Ward (#16)

The Ward (2010)

A presumably escaped mental patient (Amber Heard) is picked up by the police and sent to the titled place, a closed-off section of a psychiatric hospital where a group of young women are being systemically picked off by a ghost. Director John Carpenter has not made a certified good feature since his 1995 masterpiece IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS. THE WARD was his first new film in 9 years and it certainly proved that he's clearly riding out the luster of his name because it is really terrible. This should be a bland direct-to-DVD feature done by someone breaking into the business, not from the hands of a former horror icon. After watching this, I want to go right up to his nose at a con and scream, "What have you done, you hack?!", as I'm being justifiably tased. THE WARD possesses absolutely no artistry, no ingenuous ways of terror. Jump scares, white flashes, and music stings; these three cheap spook elements are all this piece of crap has. Then, there's the pitiful story, which is extremely predictable when it comes to its so-called "earth-shattering" twist. Spoiler: Amber Heard is one of many, and I don't mean a good actor here. Of course the twist utterly makes no sense, especially considering that many previous scenes would not be visually or creatively possible, including the kills themselves. Further slowing matters is the utter lack of audience empathy for the girls; we aren't given any reason beyond their physical looks to give a shit about their plight. Oh no, that nurse and orderly have mean mugs and bad delivery. That means I must care now, but first, a shower scene and a trip through the hospital's man-sized vents. Keep basking yourself in Carpenter's early work, because his talents have now dissipated.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Horrors of October - Nightbreed (#15)

Nightbreed (1990)

Since Shout Factory's much heralded release of the director's cut is coming up in two weeks, I wanted to check out the theatrical cut of Clive Barker's most troubled production. Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer) is framed for a series of mass murders, which were actually perpetuated by his own psychiatrist (David Cronenberg). Yes, the film director, not some similarly named actor. Boone's only hope for salvation is a place that has been haunting his dreams: Midian, an underground city where the monsters live. First things first, NIGHTBREED in this form is an editing nightmare. Characters jump all around, motives and current predicaments are underdeveloped, the mythos and customs of the titled race are barely explained, and despite being the protagonist of the picture, Boone is often tucked away for more scenes of his girlfriend (Anne Bobby). 20th Century Fox and Morgan Creek pretty much put a chainsaw to the project and then stitched it back up with loose threading and some dollar-store-brand superglue. Even though the producers wrecked its body, the film's heart still beats a mighty drum, hence why NIGHTBREED amassed a big cult following. The sheer scope of Midian is a massive delight, littered with a huge treasure trove of imaginative creatures, all of which get to be showcased in a lengthy walk through the community. Danny Elfman's score, though feeling a little like outtakes for a Burton pic, does expertly lift up the monster theatrics. But the true best features are Barker's own handprints. Similar to FREDDY'S REVENGE, Barker made the film to be an allegory about homosexuality, specifically the gay rights movement. Boone is clearly modeled to be James Dean circa REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (wink wink), and his main conflict is his tug-o-war between returning to "normalcy" with his girlfriend or supporting his new family of "freaks". When the police capture him later, not only is he routinely beaten and berated by the staff for his status, but even a priest taunts him for his indecency. And then, the film concludes with what best can be called a slight allusion to the camp classic JOHNNY GUITAR and a fantastical view of the Stonewall riot: a vicious war between the eclectic monsters and the redneck military force descending upon their home. NIGHTBREED deserves to be studied and more widely accepted by cinephiles; the later wish will certainly come true on October 28.


Knights of Badassdom - Review

Seeking to get their doom metal-playing best friend (Ryan Kwanten) out of his funk of being dumped by his career-seeking girlfriend, and out of the castle where they all live in (?), an accidental millionaire (Steve Zahn) and his shroom-eating buddy (Peter Dinklage) shanghai him into a weekend of LARPing in the woods. The fantasy elements become real, however, when they inadvertently summon a succubus from a magic tome that they bought off of eBay. KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM is a serviceable action-comedy, which turns into full-on horror once the night festivities begin, with a game cast (Dinklage having the most of the fun) and some impressive creature effects. Unfortunately, it's a bit hard to praise and/or decry it any further due to the extensive backstage problems the movie has suffered from. For you see, this theatrical cut was chopped up by the film's producers; director Joe Lynch has disowned the entire project because of this interference. Judging from what's giving in front of me, the most obvious dumb decision done by the money men is the splattering of red-black subtitles throughout it, often relaying nothing of note. I say that these lame texts are the fault of the producers because the film's flat ending is entirely slathered by them, causing the rushed epilogue to become the worst Powerpoint presentation ever to debut on the big screen and be printed for home viewing. Chances of the original cut popping up soon is very slim but honestly, there really is not much in this butchered feature to warrant it right now.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Horrors of October - Halloween II (#14)

Halloween II (1981)

Immediately starting at where the first film left off, Michael Myers is still alive and killing, while Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and the Haddonfield police force continue their search for the escaped mental patient turned town menace. Too bad they never checked the local hospital, where the small night shift crew are the only line of defense from Myers reaching an injured and sedated Laurie Strode (Jaime Lee Curtis). I gave it a second chance but I am still not a fan of this sequel to the slasher classic. Let me start off with the positives before I become a sour sport. The opening credits perfectly capture the picture's status and tone: A return to the world devised by John Carpenter and Debra Hill (the pumpkin head) but now heading towards a darker and more sinister atmosphere (the skull within). Rick Rosenthal does a fine job as Carpenter's replacement, capturing some impressive horror sights, even though the post-production troubles and some reshoots by Carpenter himself undermined his vision. The kills are very memorable (the "lift by scalpel" being the best) and the explosive ending/amazing final stunt gives the Myers saga a proper conclusion. Unfortunately, that's all the good will I can give because everything else is rubbish. Carpenter and Hill do the most damage with their dull horror script, where they overloaded the pages with a bunch of cheap jump scares, flat characters that all display severely idiotic behavior, pointless allusions to mythology, and sheer amounts of bad misfortunes. Then, they drop one of the stinkiest bombshells ever on film: Michael and Laurie are actually siblings. What a shitty twist, made worst because the film doesn't call any further attention to it; it's the equivalent of the "I have breast cancer" line from the good bad masterpiece THE ROOM. This stupid creative decision would later help lead the franchise into the crapper, with future installments fixating heavily on the convoluted gene pool of the Myers clan, including one where he's an incest rapist. Don't ask about that blight and don't bother with this sequel.


Nurse - Review

I have sit through several reboot misfires and Christian catastrophes this year but somehow, this extremely forgettable horror-thriller was my most painful watching experience of 2014 so far. I was severely thrashing in my seat and boiling over while partaking in this god awful abomination. Let's get the plot out first before I start my surgery: A working nurse (Paz de la Huerta) spends her evenings slumming through clubs, hoping to be approached by affair-seeking men before then murdering them for their cheating ways. But that plotline is immediately dropped off the roof, along with the first victim, and the story instead focuses on Huerta's obsession with her trainee (Katrina Bowden). Because, you see, FATAL ATTRACTION plus lesbian overtones equals tight pants and male lapdogs. So what's wrong with something that sounds like a normal exploitation movie? Answer #1: Paz de la Huerta. She is cancer, a eye-searing blight on the entire picture. She's supposed to be a total package; Venus incarnate, a master manipulator and an unhinged slasher all in the body of a model. Huerta is certainly none of that, nor can see even do the easy feat of sexily reading off a restaurant menu at one point. She's not an actor, she's an alien creature that needs to be killed by fire; we'll keep the Scarlett Johansson one, thank you. Every time she opens her mouth and monotones out an one-liner, you can hear the restless stirring of a million coffins in Hollywood. No amount of full frontal nudity can cover up her bottom of the barrel talent.

I'm not going overboard with my abject hatred for Huerta just to be a bitter pill but because all of her blatant faults weren't addressed by the filmmakers or fixed in the final cut. For director Doug Aarniokoski and his co-writer David Loughery, who just copied and pasted his script for OBSESSED (including the catfight finale), she is Linda Fiorentino from THE LAST SEDUCTION, but more naked. Which brings us to Answer #2: The story is total bullshit. Huerta gets away with all of her dirty deeds for no explainable reasons. For example, she tells a suspicious co-worker that she got her medical degree at Syracuse; later in a closeup, her profile sheet clearly states "University of Syracuse". Where's the red flags?! How did she make it through the screening process to her position with pathetic lies like that?! This gets even more egregious at the end of the film, where she suddenly becomes the female version of Michael Myers, constantly murdering everyone in front of her with ease and getting up from every major injury, despite having the build and prowess of a baby squirrel. Again, Aarniokoski doesn't care about this anomaly, nor does he care about making a good movie. He's fine that NURSE advocates that women are psycho, stupid hypocrites, who are willing to live with sexual harassment in the workplace and oddly love to take showers in their underwear. His only concern is that his bad 3D visual effects work properly, including the sight of CGI shower water. I would end by saying that you shouldn't resuscitate when this movie loses your patience but that implies that the movie actually had life to begin with. This is a stillborn, through and through.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Horrors of October - A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (#13)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)

Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton) suffers greatly from a series of nightmares, each featuring a certain bladed glove-wearing serial killer. Unable to keep a hold on him, Freddy Krueger is reborn into the real world and strictly seeks to kill the male population. When I first saw FREDDY'S REVENGE during my initial trip through the entire ELM STREET franchise, I flat-out hated it. I knew what was going on in the background (which I'll get to in a bit) but I was more concerned about the dilution of the character brand and it being such a mighty step-down from the classic first film. Like many, I was screaming to the heavens, "Where's Freddy and what's his revenge?!" Nowadays, however, I see FREDDY'S REVENGE as the most daringly original of the sequels, excluding NEW NIGHTMARE of course. What makes the film stand out on its own from the pack is its immensely gay subtext. For you see, Freddy Krueger here is the living embodiment of Jesse's own repression of his homosexuality. Need proof? Other than the fact that Jesse is being played by an openly gay actor, there is his shrilly girl screams, his trip to a S&M bar, and the glorious moment where he dances to the original version of the dance classic "Touch Me (All Night Long)" while cleaning up his room, including the sight of a man closing his drawer by twerking. But the biggest piece of evidence is how Jesse is clearly more attracted to his friend Grady than final girl Lisa, asking him questions about wet dreams and running to his bedroom when a make-out session goes wrong. Apparently, all of this flew right over director's Jack Sholder, despite him contributing a world of high camp, where Jesse's household looks like it was transplanted from "Leave It to Beaver". Though all of this makes the movie utterly fascinating to behold, not everything works out in the end. The film never explains how the real-life version of Krueger has supernatural powers, including pyromancy and teleporation. Then, there is the mess that is the finale, where at one point Freddy is being guarded by dogs with human faces. Yeah, it's as stupid as it sounds. Despite these setbacks, the movie rights itself with a bookending epilogue, that explicitly states that it's unhealthy to try and "correct" one's true self.


The Rover - Review

A quiet Aussie with no regards to his own life (Guy Pearce) seeks to enact vengeance on the three men who stole his car. During his journey, he picks up and holds one of the robbers' left-for-dead brother (Robert Pattinson) hostage until the eventual showdown. THE ROVER doesn't just possess a paint-by-numbers script, it possess a paint-like-Rothko type of a basic script. Every story beat is expected, every twist unfolds calmly, and every bullet counts. What causes the story to be more interesting than it truly is is its background material: the tale is set 10 years after an unspecified collapse in the society, causing the Aussie dollar to be virtually worthless. We get a few hints here and there of what previously happened, plus some clues to the current world landscape and Australia's position as a nation. For example, you'll easily spot and question why there's an influx of Chinese people and their culture in the desert towns. The other big saving graces of the picture are the acting talents of Pearce and Pattinson. Yes, I did put the word "talent" and Robert Pattinson together in one sentence, as he does a good job as a lowly good-ole boy and a lost pup to Pearce's intensely bitter lost soul. Though he falters in his writing duties, director David Michôd does give the film an unconventional, natural horror style, which will very likely cause some viewers to walk out on it. The other huge exit-now factor for the easily offended of course would be the mumbly, accent-heavy dialogue. THE ROVER will not win over everybody but it does have some peculiar merits. Plus, it does feature one of the most strangest film moments this year involving a semi-recent pop song.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Horrors of October - Creepshow 2 (#12)

Creepshow 2 (1987)

CREEPSHOW was and still is one of the absolute best anthology movies ever made, blessed with great comic-book-like direction by George A. Romero and five quality stories from horror writer Stephen King. Eventually, it came time for a sequel to be made but the key ingredients of the first film were all changed. Romero moved to script duty, King's stories went from five to just three, and Roger Corman's New World Pictures took over for Warner Bros. and obviously slashed the budget in half. Romero instead gave his directing slot to his long-time cinematographer Michael Gornick; considering that he never made another feature film after this, you can tell who's to blame first for CREEPSHOW 2. Honestly, the film itself isn't bad, certainly watchable for an afternoon, but it does suffer for its questionable artistic vision and low-budget nature. The first story, "Old Chief Woodenhead", is the worst of the three, telling a tale of a Native American statue getting revenge after his owners are killed by a trio of robbers. Despite featuring legends like George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour, the acting is pretty poor. But I really accuse Gornick for its troubles, as it takes forever for the main conflict to come into the picture, plus the baffling decision to have the actor playing Woodenhead to stand still as the object, causing the attention to divert to the jilting figure. Why not just hire a trained mime for the job? The movie does picks itself off of the ground with "The Raft", a simple story about four college kids who are stuck on the floating platform because of an oil-slick-like creature. The main actor is kinda of a wash but the breezy plot, gross practical effects, and a killer ending twist make it the best short. The concluding chapter, "The Hitchhiker", is a lot better than when I first watched it. A rich snob speeds her way home after a date with a gigolo, only to kill a hitchhiking black man, and then find herself in constant peril by his new zombie-like state. The parts where Lois Chiles openly speaks out her inner thoughts are eye-rolling but the short does have a nice black comedic tone and harkens back to the old EC Comics. The wrap-around segments are okay if odd, since they are entirely animated and feature the film's comic-book narrator, who of course has to end every short with a bad horror pun. Again, just a satisfactory sequel.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Horrors of October - Seven (#11)

Seven (1995)

Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) has to put up with his replacement David Mills (Brad Pitt) for one week of duty before he can finally retire from the force. Ironically for him, and not the screenwriter, an unidentifiable serial killer presents a dead body every one of those days, each of them related to one of the seven deadly sins. The worst thing I can really say about this re-watch is the movie's official name: SE7EN. I have always hated that form of the title, especially since it helped bring about the rise of semi-leet titling (TAK3N, anyone?). Other than that, I'm really glad I checked this great movie again. I fondly remember how big and off-putting the movie was at the time and how I desperately wanted to see it, despite my parents' disapproval. It along with PULP FICTION and SCREAM were my top three must-see rated-R movies, and if you know the connection between those three, you sir or madam are a 90's kid. I eventually did get my chance to watch it, albeit with the famous twist already spoiled by pop culture, but this fresh viewing truly made me love this flick. I adored looking over the humongous amount of little details at the crime scenes, which director David Fincher just hangs on briefly in order for the viewer to be jumbled up in the dark chaos; look no further than the deliriously loud sex hotel scene. While I was too concerned with Nine Inch Nails and Gravity Kills' contributions the first go-around, I was more moved and unnerved by Howard Shore's masterful score here (Bach helped as well for one sublime sequence!). The Captain America spirit possessed by Pitt makes the pic far more tragic than I realized. But the biggest surprise is that of all of the fantastic scenes in the film, my absolute favorite moment didn't go to the sight of air fresheners or the apartment chase, but to the scene where Somerset and Mill's wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) have a heart-to-heart talk. Everybody needs to stop being a total bro, throw out their worn-out copies of FIGHT CLUB, and pick up this terrifying classic right now.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Horrors of October - Jack Frost (#10)

Jack Frost (1997)

Serial killer Jack Frost is being transported one very wintery night to his execution, only for him to survive a car crash but be dosed with unknown chemicals. Despite the total evaporation his entire body, his mixed-up genes and soul bond with the loose snow on the ground, allowing him to resume his crime spree as a killer snowman. JACK FROST is still known mainly for two big things. First, it came out one year before the equally named, crappy Michael Keaton film, which lead to much confusion and fun at video stores in the late 90's. And secondly, it not only has the distinction of featuring the first true acting gig for Shannon Elizabeth, but the later AMERICAN PIE star was "lucky" enough to be spotlighted in the film's most memorable/infamous kill, where Frost poses as bath water before then raping and killing the naked Elizabeth. The kill would be in very bad taste if not for the sheer incompetence of the snowman puppet, which is way too rubbery and can only move when on an unseen dolly. Make no mistake, this movie is a really dumb horror-comedy, laden with horrible one-liners and lame low-budget effects, but the stupid charm of it all does win out sometimes. Director Michael Cooney protracts all of the "suspenseful" sequences, namely the prison ordeal and the final chase, yet he does give the picture some artistic flair, such as a jokey take of the opening car accident and shots from the perspective of melted snow. The movie also distinctly stands out for its peculiar opening and closing credits. And of course, the goofy idea of a menacing snowman at least warrants a watch, albeit something you might want on your streaming record.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Horrors of October - Terminator II: Shocking Dark, The Dark (#9)

Terminator II: Shocking Dark (1990)

Always leave it to the Italians to make an unofficial sequel to a popular Hollywood movie, and then botch it up completely: Very similar to how Lucio Fulci turned his DAWN OF THE DEAD wannabe into ZOMBI 2, director Bruno Mattei (aka Vincent Dawn) followed the same strategy with his ALIENS rip-off SHOCKING DARK, only to instead officially call it TERMINATOR II. And amazingly, he got away with it, at least in Europe. To be fair, there is an evil, macho-pumped android in the movie but it's hard to take him seriously when he's named Samuel Fuller, looks like Paul Reiser and plays an exact clone of Burke. Also like Burke, the T-Lame00 doesn't pull a heel turn until much later in the picture and his bad deeds are easily overshadowed by the alien antagonists, who here look like giant fishmen. So, it's a shameless product that copied and pasted all of the details of its source material, plus a sprinkling of fan fiction. Why would anyone want to watch it? It's simple: the sheer incompetence of every level of production. All of the actors are hilariously wooden and beyond amateurish, often tripping over their words and even staring straight at the camera. The action sequences may be cheesy fun but then you have to sit through several scenes where literally nothing happens on screen. Audio is either a garbled-up mess or a total shrill-fest whenever the worst child actor ever opens her yapper. The Not-Xenos kill/injure people by pimp-handing them over rails or performing a Three Stooges routine. Two of the Marines, I mean soldiers of "Mega Force", are named Foster and Kane; I guess Charlie got Charles. More can be said about its crappiness (Many characters die because Fake-Ripley keeps hitting the wrong door-opening button!) but unless you're an Italian exploitation purveyor, you can stick with the Cameron cut.


The Dark (1979)

Since I was in the mood, I decided to watch another horror movie with "Dark" in the title. William Devane, Richard Jaeckel, and Cathy Lee Crosby are all searching for the zombie-like mangler that is terrorizing the L.A. nightlife and decapitating one person every day. But sometimes he's sick of this calling card so he blasts them with his eye-lasers till they explode. But this killing method also lobs off heads? And in one peculiar moment, the lasers can be telekinetic, propelling a copper into a wall before then making him explode?? Yeah, THE DARK certainly is a mess, largely due to the many production snafus that plagued it: Original director Tobe Hopper was replaced by John "Bud" Cardos (KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS) during filming and its original concept of a maniac zombie was altered into a laser-shooting alien brute after poor test screenings. This editing by committee doesn't help all matters, however. The film's script has all of the characters dicking around for the most part until the last quarter of the picture and it suffers from many noticeable continuity issues whenever the makers shoot outdoors. I don't know what's more bewildering: the fact that Devane is desperate to find his daughter's killer yet doesn't bring a gun or anything when he finally locates it or his eye-popping polka-dotted lounge robe. Despite these errors, I enjoyed THE DARK a bit because I largely viewed it as 50's style B-movie but with 70's sensibilities. It has a lot of talking scenes involving science and police work, a gypsy foreshadower, and a suave citizen investigator mixed in with a score that cribs THE OMEN and some stylishly shot scare scenes. I also had a ball at the cop-killing action finale, though how the heroes kill the creature is unbelievably lame. Not a hidden horror gem but a really odd curiosity piece.


Trailer Review - Tomorrowland

1st Teaser Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Britt Robertson as Casey Newton (subtle), George Clooney as a brooding elder, and a random jetpacker.

Scene Pop: Picking up the pin.

Briggs Breakdown: 1 money clip, $47.32, Florida state driving license, NASA baseball cape, 1 pin, pack of Beemans gum, and whatever that is. Oh, and some Spielberg-esque staring.

Effective?: Yes. It tell us that the heroine is a troubled kid but a space lover, the world is currently going to hell, and the allure of a futuristic dreamland.

Check it Out?: I don't know. I like its concept and the fact that Brad Bird is the attached director but I feel that no child really would want to see this movie come next summer; Interstellar will be the true litmus test. Plus, as someone who recently went to Disney World, Tomorrowland isn't as popular as it once was, at least in terms of majestic futurism. We will have to wait and see with the next teaser whether Disney has a winner or not.