Sunday, January 29, 2012

Shark Night 3D: watched in 2D

Yikes, this movie got a lot of flak when it came out.  Now, I see a lot of bad movies, and trust me: Shark Night 3D isn't THAT bad.  I saw some bunny themed slasher movie on CHILLER the other night that was so bad I couldn't even finish watching it. When I can't enjoy watching a bunch of college kids get slaughtered in the woods THAT IS BAD.  Shark Night 3D isn't so bad.

Not saying it's good either.  Unfortunately it came out after the incredible, the awesome, the so bad it's genius Piranha 3D.  Both films have a lot in common.  Killer sea life where it shouldn't be (a lake), hot young students served up as fish food, hillbillies.  Difference is, Shark Night 3D is 100% without humor.  Or boobs.  Or gore.  Or a sensible plot.  So you are not up all night wondering what Shark Night could be about, let me explain...

A bunch of Tulane University kids decided to spend the weekend at Sara's lake house.  Sara (Sara Paxton, who I like: she is a good final girl) is from a rich family, and they own a private island somewhere in Louisiana.  Sara hasn't been to the lake house in 3 years.  This could have something to do with her crazy ex boyfriend who almost let her drown, so she ran over his face with a propeller.  He lived, and he is a hillbilly.  This ex and a bunch of his hillbilly friends decide to make a fortune by introducing sharks to the lake, strapping cameras to their heads, and feeding them college students.  Their brilliant plan is to sell this "extreme shark week" footage to the highest bidder.  No one ever said hillbillies ever came up with good ideas.  These hillbillies aren't even cannibals!  Jeez.

So that it the movie.  Most of the kills are off camera so there is very little gore.  The characters are horrible (except this guy, who seeks vengeance on a shark by stabbing it with a spear.  It turns out it was the wrong shark, but it was a Hammerhead, which is pretty cool.), and the plot is re-dick-u-lous.  But, I didn't spend $15 bucks in the theatre to see the crappy 3D.  I spent $1.99 on a 5 day rental.  All in all I am pretty happy and should be able to go on with my life.  Thank goodness this movie tanked: I wouldn't want to sit through Shark Night 2 3D: More Crap.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Invisible Man 1933

The Invisible Man is a no brainer.  It's classic Universal Horror, directed by James Whale, stars Claude Rains (one of my favorites) and has amazing special effects by John P. Fulton, John J. Mescall, and Frank D. Williams.  I had not seen it in years.  Unlike the other Universal heavyweights (Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman) it is not on my yearly rotation.  Thanks to TCM (again) I finally watched it again last night. 

What struck me about The Invisible Man was how scary it is.  I mean, how scary is the thought of a homicidal maniac that is invisible?  I don't care what anyone says, it's not the "monocane".  Dr. Jack Griffin must have been somewhat crazy to begin with.  You don't just turn invisible and decide to become a mass murderer for shits and giggles. 

Dr. Griffin's great idea is to terrorize a fellow colleague, poor Dr. Kemp, into becoming his mass murdering Igor.  When Dr. Kemp decides enough is enough and calls the police, Griffin vows to kill him at 10pm the next day.  This is where the terror lies in this film.  Knowing an invisible monster has a vendetta against you, and has vowed to kill you, no matter what.  What on earth can protect you?  Well, the cops come up with some pretty good ideas for "unmasking" the invisible man, but Griffin is a genius, a mad genius.  Dr. Kemp's days are numbered when he goes off by himself. 

James Whale had a "thing" for the sympathetic monster.  Certainly Frankenstein's monster fit this mold.  Whale and the screenwriters made a few changes to H.G. Wells' story to make Griffin more sympathetic.  In my mind Griffin is the least sympathetic of Whale's monsters.  Perhaps it's Claude Rains.  His voice is sooo evil.  Perhaps its the joy he takes in killing.  Even when he "calms down" in the presence of Flora (Gloria Stuart) I don't completely trust him.  And what the hell is with Flora?  Is Claude Rains that good in the sack that she is willing to overlook the fact that he is an invisible killer?  And why is her Father, Dr. Cranley, so protective of this murdering lunatic?  Is that whole family just totally crazy?

While watching The Invisible Man I kept thinking of one of my favorite guilty pleasures, The Hollow Man.  Kevin Bacon is crazy in that film!  But for my money, I'll take Claude Rains for my nightmares. 

The Town that Dreaded Sundown

TCM has really been delivering lately in terms of Horror programming (Thank you Mr. Turner).  I recently had the chance to catch The Town that Dreaded Sundown, which might be the best title for a horror film EVER.  But let me back up: The Town that Dreaded Sundown isn't really a horror film.  It's more along the lines of Zodiac.  I mean, it's really along the lines of Zodiac.  Both films are based on true unsolved murders. Both follow the Detectives (in the case of The Town that Dreaded Sundown, the Barney Fife type country bumpkins) who are trying to catch a masked serial killer.  Both films show how the murders terrorized the citizens of the respective communities. 

Released in 1976 by AIP, The Town that Dreaded Sundown introduced us to one of the first masked killers.  Known as "The Phantom Killer", this madman stalked and killed couples on Lover's Lanes in the Texarkana area in the late 1940s.  He may have served as an inspiration for the real life "Zodiac" killer.  The film, directed by Charles B. Pierce (who plays the bumbling Fife-like "Spark plug") is told documentary style, with a voice over narrator introducing us to characters and giving us a bit of back story. 

This technique gave the film the feel of those educational reels we used to watch in school (if you are over 35 you know what I am talking about).  But instead of "and that was the first and last time that Johnny smoked pot" we get "despite the murders, the stupid kids of Texarkana continued to park on lonely country roads and get killed in horrible ways."

This film is a weird, not always successful mix of docudrama, horror, and comedy.  Seven it ain't.  But it does have a lot of charm.  From Ben Johnson as Texas Ranger J.D. Morales to Dawn Wells (from Gilligan) as one of the few survivors of the Phantoms attacks, The Town that Dreaded Sundown is worth a look, especially if you like to get creeped out on real life horror.  "The Phantom Killer", much like the "Zodiac", was never caught.  He could have been killed or thrown in jail, or he could be an old man in a rest home, watching his story on TCM.  One never knows....

Why don't you go after Ginger!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dahmer 2002

Dahmer, from 2002 and starring Jermey Renner, is not really a horror film, although there are horrific elements in it (duh).  It is more of an arty docu-drama.  Or, an episode of BIOGRAPHY directed by Sophia Coppola.  Meaning it's slow and there are a lot of shots of people looking and sighing.

The film, which is a combo of present day and flashback, rests solely on Jeremy Renner's performance, and his performance is amazing.  He is really, really creepy.  Beyond that, the film doesn't tell us much about Dahmer besides the fact that he had a controlling father (Bruce Davidson) and a drinking problem.  Already knew that from BIOGRAPHY. 

The whole film looks like a 70's porno which adds to the creep factor. The flashbacks, which progressively go further back in time until we see Dahmer's first kill, are very disturbing.  More disturbing however are the "present" day scenes, where Dahmer is trying to kill a young man he lured into his apartment.  It is sad and frustrating that the young man doesn't get the hint that Dahmer is a FREAK.  The young man is so desperate for affection he sees a kindred spirit in Dahmer.  What he doesn't know is that there is a head in the freakin' freezer!  Get out dude!

Like I said, the only thing I recommend this film for is Renner's performance.  If you have some sort of thing for Jermey Renner (not saying I do.....but I do) it is worth seeing.  There is not a lot of gore, but the film did make me uncomfortable.  But Sophia Coppola's films make me feel uncomfortable too so there you go.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Belated Birthday Edgar Allan Poe!

I didn't really forget... I just forgot to post anything.  With great sadness I report that it looks like the great tradition of the Edgar Allan Poe "toaster" has officially ended.  Check out the story at the Washington Post:

Maybe someday another person will take up the mantle.

For those of you who love Poe there is a wealth of really good animation out there based on his poems.  I particularly like this one: James Mason narrates!  Enjoy......

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rare book review: Harbor

My rare book reviews are becoming not so rare anymore.  You haven't heard from me in while because I have been trying to finish John Ajvide Lindqvist's massive Harbor.  Lindqvist is the author of Let the right one in and Handling the Undead.  He is the hottest export from Sweden since Stieg Larsson (by the way, I just saw David Fincher's version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Is is horrible to admit I liked it better than the Swedish version?  I did.  A couple of reasons.  Although she annoys me, Rooney Mara does an excellent job as Lisbeth.  You really believe she may be psychotic.  I also loved the score but that has more to do with me being totally obsessed with Trent Reznor than anything else.  Finally, the opening credit sequence is bananas!) 

Confession. I read Let the right one in, but I never read Handling the Undead, which I hear is very good.  I only have Let the right one in to compare Harbor to.  And that is tough, because in my humble opinion, Let the right one in is a masterpiece.  Harbor, not so much.

Things start well.  Our hero, Anders, grew up on the island of Domaro.  Most people on the island, including his father, earned their living from the sea.  As an adult Anders returns to his father's cottage with his wife Cecilia and his precocious 6 year old daughter Maja.  During a visit to the lighthouse, Maja disappears, never to be found.  The tragedy destroys Anders and Cecilia's marriage and turns him into a not so functioning alcoholic.

A few years later, Anders returns to Domaro.  He is haunted by the memory of his daughter.  Soon, he becomes haunted by something much more sinister.  Trying to help Anders is Simon, his Grandmother's boyfriend.  Simon is a former magician who settled on the island.  Simon harbors a few secrets himself, not the least of which is a slimy slug that he keeps in a matchbox in his pocket.  This slug, called the "spiritus", needs Simon's saliva to survive.  It also controls water, which is a handy trick on an island. 

Simon and Anders discover that everyone keeps secrets on this island, and little Maja is not the first to disappear.  Anders begins a quest to find his daughter, whom he believes is another prisoner of Domaro.

Lindqvist has been called Sweden's Stephen King.  I didn't see the connection when I read Let the right one in, but I do with Harbor.  Like King, Lindqvist is a master of communicating a sense of place, not only geographical (although at the end of this book I felt I could navigate Domaro with no problem) but a sense of place with people.  As King does with so many of his novels, Lindqvist really creates a world that you feel you grew up in.  You get to know every character, and how the land they grew up on shaped who they became.  I welcomed every flashback, as it gave me a better sense of Domaro and the fascinating characters that inhabit it.

The sea is as much a character here as the island and its inhabitants.  The sea gives life and prosperity, but it also demands an unthinkable toll.  Reading Harbor I was not only reminded of King, but of H.P. Lovecraft and his Old Ones.  There is evil lurking in the sea, and it is not until the end that is shows itself.  It has the same respect for humans as Lovecraft's Gods do. 

So where does Harbor go wrong?  It sounds pretty good so far, right?  I get the feeling that Lindqvist lost interest about halfway through the book.  The ideas are interesting but the execution is lacking.  I hate to say it but I didn't quite understand the ending.  I had to go back and reread the last 30 pages just to make sure I didn't miss anything.   There is no emotional payoff, and the characters themselves don't even seem to be too interested in what has occurred.  My favorite character, Simon, gets pushed to the side and Anders just starts to piss me off.  At the end I really didn't care whether or not he found Maja.  I was so disappointed that a book I really enjoyed for the first 300 pages turned into such a disapointment. 

I am am looking forward to Lindqvist's next book.  He is an excellent writer.  I just hope the next one ends as well as this one began.  Now I am going to watch Let the right one in, which I did enjoy much more than the American remake.  Why don't you enjoy the opening credits for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. 

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil



I literally have nothing to say about this film except that it is AWESOME!  It is my favorite Shaun of the Dead type film since........Shaun of the Dead.  If you love Deliverance, Wrong Turn, The Hills have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Offspring, or ANY of the Friday the 13th opus, you will love Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.    It is on Netflix streaming.  What is stopping you?

OK, it could have used some cannibalism.  My only complaint.  You know how I love Hillbilly cannibals. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy Friday the 13th!!!!

Don't be sad good buddy!  It's Friday the 13th!!!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day of the Dead 1985: Revisited

Many thanks to ZOMBIEPEDIA for background info on Day of the Dead.  Check it out for all of your zombie related needs!

My local Rasputin's Music and DVD store just closed and I was lucky enough to snatch up a treasure trove of horror discs including George A Romero's Day of the Dead.  Of course I had seen Day before.  It is part of the Holy Trilogy after all (the other Holy Trilogy.) 

Like many others, Day of the Dead has been my least favorite of the first three dead films (of the total 6, my least favorite was and is Survival of the Dead.  Maybe in 20 years I will like it, but I doubt it.)  By "least favorite" I don't mean I ever disliked it: it just wasn't as scary as Night of the Living Dead or as awesome as Dawn of the Dead (do I have to explain why Dawn is awesome?  I don't think so!)  Day has it's charms, mainly Joe Pilato's crazy performance, Tom Savini's makeup and gore, and, of course, Bub.

Who doesn't love Bub?  What an amazing performance by Howard Sherman (aka Sherman Howard) and incredible make-up by Savini.  Bub is the first Zombie I have ever rooted for! 

  Day is claustrophobic, gloomy, and surreal.  From the setting, an underground bunker that is still half rock, to the cavern of Zombies, separated from the survivors by a wooden fence, the world of Day a tomb.  The inhabitants, a mix of scientists and military types, rightly worry that they may be the last survivors.  They are also totally crazy or halfway there.

Day would seem to suggest that there is little hope for humanity.  Indeed, the real monsters here are the power hungry Rhodes and the delusional Dr. Logan (aka Frankenstein), who has given up trying to "cure" the Zombies and instead is trying to tame them. 

Yes, strangely enough, Day of the Dead has a pretty optimistic ending.  Sarah, the final girl, escapes with the two remaining non crazy people in the bunker and ends up on a tropical beach.  True, they are not out of danger, but it beats having to hang out with Joe Pilato!  Romero has called Day his favorite of the first three Dead films.  Although I can't quite agree with him on this one, I do have to say I found it scary and compelling.  I like what he does with Bub and the whole Frankenstein angle.  The sense of claustrophobia and doom are overwhelming at times (my favorite part of Zombie films) and I think the performances are really good, particularly Sherman, Lori Cardille (Sarah) and Terry Alexander (John, the new Flyboy.)  Then there is Joe Pilato: crazier and scarier than any Zombie!  I really love him in this film: especially when he yells "choke on em" as he is being ripped apart! 

Go Bub!!!  I wonder: could he really have lived that long after being pulled apart?  And what is Pilato made of?  Jelly?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year! and: The Howling.

Happy New Year everyone!  Or as some like to think of it: Happy End of Days!  Whatever your preference I hope 2012 is a good one.  I am not one to be sentimental but I am pretty sure 1/1/12 was the 5 year anniversary of my blogging career!  Yes, what started out of sheer boredom and a way to distract myself from a wicked hangover has become become my number one hobby!  So thank you kind readers who put up with my misspellings and lazy dependence on swear words to express emotion!  I hope to bring you much more horror in the years to come!

And now on to another well plotted and structured review (not really).  Fangoria recently did a two issue spread on Joe Dante's The Howling, also known as the "the film usually overshadowed by An American Werewolf in London".  Both films came out the same year (1981), both share a similar theme (Werewolf! There! Wolf!), both are infused with humor (John Landis, better known for comedy, directed An American Werewolf in London), and both feature kick ass special effects!!  Yet, The Howling is treated like Werewolf's less attractive little sister!  I am guilty of thinking this as well.  In fact, I can't say with certainty I had ever seen The Howling before.  I remember the weird sequel with the marsupials, but I don't remember the original.  Thanks to Fangoria I have remedied this situation and and I can proudly say that that An American Werewolf in London IS a better picture! But The Howling is pretty damn good as well.

"I am prettier than David Naughton"

Karen White (Dee Wallace) is a television journalist about to uncover the identity of a notorious serial killer.  When the big reveal doesn't go quite as planned, Karen suffers a bout of post-traumatic stress disorder.  The television station's psychologist (?) recommends that she spend a few days at "The Colony," his retreat center set in the woods.  Karen heads out there with her husband Bill.

Who drives like this?

Meanwhile, Karen's friend and co-worker Terri (Belinda Balaski) researches the life of Eddie Quist, the serial killer now presumed dead.  This is old school research, before the Internet!  They actually go to a bookstore!  Terri and her producer boyfriend Chris (Dennis Dugan) discover that Eddie may have been a werewolf! Meanwhile, Karen discovers that her husband is probably sleeping with the local whore Marsha (Elizabeth Brooks) and that everyone at The Colony may be a werewolf!!!  Coincidence?  I think not!!

Cut to Rob Bottin's transformation sequence.  If you read this blog regularly you know I LOVE Rob Bottin!  And his work here is amazing!  The sequence is similar to Rick Baker's work in An American Werewolf in London but not as famous. I think the transformation is better in Werewolf.  The makeup is incredible, Landis shot it perfectly, and David Naughton sold the hell out of it.  But don't discount The Howling.  Bottin is a genius, and I was surprised at how effective the transformation was, especially the final one at the end.

The Howling, although not really scary, has a lot going for it.  There is a great chase sequence in the middle, some nice gore, and plenty of sight gags and cameos to keep a horror hound interested.  My favorites include cameos by Roger Corman and Forrest J. Ackerman, and bit parts played by horror heroes such as Dick Miller (Bucket of Blood) and John Carradine (practically every horror film ever made.)  When you watch it, keep an eye open for the numerous "wolf" references Dante scattered throughout the film.  Next, I watch the sequel, which I think is the one with the marsupials and I know is the one with an interesting closing credit sequence.