Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stars - Elijah Wood
           Robin Williams
           Alecia Moore (P!nk)
Directed by:  George Miller
Summary: Mumble's son, Erik, is struggling to realize his talents in the Emperor Penguin world. Meanwhile, Mumble and his family and friends discover a new threat their home -- one that will take everyone working together to save them. (via imdb). 
I readily admit that I am not the target audience for this movie, as a 38 year old male, but that shouldn't count, because other animation studios do make their films to be appealing to kids and adults alike (thank you Pixar!). This one... does not. I was simultaneously bored and annoyed by the constant breaking into song, like some National Geographic version of Fame!, but not in an entertaining way. The songs seemed extraneous instead of cooperative. It seems as though the filmmakers purposely sat down and decided to list as many pop songs as possible and then wrote a movie around the list. It didn't work for me. I did like the messages in the movie about perseverance, individuality and teamwork, but that's the nicest thing I can say about it. 
The only other bright spots for me, as a comedic break, were the two krill played by Brad Pitt, as the one who wants more out of life than swarming) and Matt Damon, his reluctant tag along. But even their shtick got tedious after a while.
My rating, from an adult perspective, is a meager 3 out of 10. But, to be fair to the filmmakers, I've embedded my two sons' reactions below.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

11-11-11 (2011)

Stars - Timothy Gibbs
           Michael Landes
           Brendan Price
Directed by:  Darren Lynn Bousman
Summary: After the death of his wife and child, an author travels to Barcelona to see his estranged brother and dying father, where he learns that his life is plagued by events that occur on 11/11/11. (via imdb). 
This is a movie about repetition, and I'm not just referring to the constant repeating of the movie's title throughout the movie. I swear the screenwriter used the copy/paste function on his word processor liberally. The same exact phrases are repeated numerous times, and not in some freaky deja vu sense, which would almost be cool. The main character chastises his priest brother for believing in what he terms a make believe figurehead but not believing in the things happening around him no less than 5 times before the film ends. He maddeningly repeats that they are going to pack up and leave the house 3 or 4 times, but nobody does anything. It's frustrating and annoying and really sloppy.
They try really hard to create a sense of mystery and dark foreboding, but your lack of empathy for anyone in this cast makes it feel like, eh... so what. All the atmosphere in the world can't salvage it or make it scary. It just doesn't work for me. It's okay at best. Even the score seems overly repetitive and annoying.
And without spoiling anything, the supposed twist ending is both ridiculous and highly illogical. In other words, a complete crock of horseshit, for lack of a better term. It tries to be The Omen meets M. Night Shymalan, abd fails, which, I guess makes it very Shymalan like, so, congrats on that part. Stylistically, it may warrant a 6, but the sum of all it's evils makes it a 4 out of 10

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

CHEAP(er) STUFF!!!!!

Attention Flickheads (yeah, that's what I call my readers). Do you like cheap(er) stuff? I recently partnered with the good people over at Entertainment Earth, purveyors of all goods that are flat out awesome. And they are offering my readers discounts to jump start the holiday season. So, click the link below, the banner above or at right and start saving.

Seriously... stop reading and go buy stuff.

November 1st through December 5th, 2011, use the codes below:

Offer: $5 Off Your Order of $50 or More!
Code: 2011EE5

Offer: $10 Off Your Order of $90 or More!
Code: 2011EE10

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

             Jessica Tyler Brown
             Christopher Nicholas Smith
Directed by:  Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Summary: In 1988, young sisters Katie and Kristi befriend an invisible entity who resides in their home. (via imdb). 
Generally speaking, with sequels, and in particular, horror sequels, the law of diminishing returns leads you to honor the old adage of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). You expect the story quality to be less and the jump scares and gore to be more. Luckily, the directors of this film, who also directed the critical hit Catfish (read that review here), did it smartly, and have released a very smart and true sequel. 
As with all sequels, there are a few continuity foibles and maybe it doesn't tie up all loose ends (spoiler alert - where's the house fire?), but it does enough to satisfy and deliver on the promise of more chills and scares.
Without spoiling anything, when you add children at risk or acting creepy in a horror film, it always seems to amp up the tension and the skin crawl factor. As with the other two installments, there are a number of scenes that will cause goosebumps in even some of the more hardcore horror fans. It's a lean movie, without any real slow or overly exposition heavy scenes, other than those that explain the use of professional video cameras in the late 80s, which weren't overly popular or affordable. There are a few moments that defy "why are they still recording this?" logic, but if you can let those go without focusing too much time to it, you'll enjoy the movie. 
I like that this, and part 2, aren't straight sequels per se, because they deal in a bit of the prequel world, especially 3, so it's not as cookie cutter as one would expect. All in all, I enjoyed it immensely, and found it to be a satisfying conclusion (for now) to the series. I would give it a 7 out of 10, bordering an 8.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Grave Encounters (2011)

Stars - Sean Rogerson
             Juan Riedinger
             Ashleigh Gryzko
Directed by:  The Vicious Brothers
Summary: Lance Preston and the crew of "Grave Encounters", a ghost-hunting reality television show, are shooting an episode inside the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, where unexplained phenomena has been reported for years. (via imdb). 
I've spent the better part of my life reveling in the joys of the scary movie. And, in all that time, there have only been a handful of movies that have ever truly scared me. This one raised goosebumps and had me on the verge of a sleepless night, right up until the end. Now, I don't want to spoil it if you are planning on seeing it, so if you want to avoid spoilers, skip the next paragraph.

Last warning... OK, in the last few minutes, the lead character is stumbling around in the labyrinth-like hallway. He stumbles into a dead-end room and finds a pentacle with candles and a Necrinomicon like book. It instantly took all the chill out of the movie. It was an extremely unnecessary touch that almost ruined the movie for me.

Back to the review... Yes, it's not an entirely original premise. Found footage is popular right now, so it's that. Paranormal stuff sells, so it's that. But, it is done well, and the characters behave (mostly) realistically. This is the first film from The Vicious Brothers, and I'd like to see what they do to follow this up. They have a lot of potential, and it would be nice for them to live up to it. The lead, Rogerson, does a great job playing the host of the TV show within the movie. I recommend this movie for a great scare. It definitely gets the job done. I give it a 7 out of 10. It could have been an 8 or higher without that one scene.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

American Horror Story (2011 TV)

While this is a film review site, I will occasionally write about a few TV shows, especially those that strike a nerve with me. When I first heard about the FX series American Horror Story (Wednesdays at 10:00 pm EST), I was immediately intrigued. Then, the unique ad campaign drew me in further. It definitely looked different and noteworthy. 
I unfortunately missed the pilot during its first run, but thanks to the magic of the internet, I was able to catch it finally, and, wow. It is weird and creepy and confusing, but whatever else it is, it's definitely going to be a must watch. My best description is if The Shining met Twin Peaks and had a baby who grew up to marry Hostel and have its own baby. There's some next level stuff going on here.
It features some great performances from the likes of Jessica Lange, Dylan McDermott and Frances Conroy among others. I'm excited to see horror make a comeback in serial television, and I hope this one takes off. It's now added to my DVR. I recommend it for the horror fans out there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Thing (2011)

         Joel Edgerton
          Ulrich Thomsen
Summary: At an Antarctica research site, the discovery of an alien craft leads to a confrontation between graduate student Kate Lloyd and scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson. (via imdb). 
Okay, I don't know who's been writing summaries on imdb lately, but this is yet another underwhelming description. The long and short of it is that this is a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter masterpiece, also, confusingly, named The Thing, which is in turn a remake of a 1951 sci-fi classic, The Thing From Another World. I was a bit worried when this was announced, especially when they announced the director, who is handling big time chores for the first time. 
I am happy to report that not only does this film honor Carpenter's film, it enhances it. The  movie is set in 1982, shortly before the beginning of the other. What we get to see is the parts only hinted at and inferred in the original (remake) version. It looks so much like a 1980s film (in a good way) that it makes me question if the producers have somehow mastered time travel. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is, in turns, charming and badass as the paleontologist brought in to study a found alien artifact. I don't want to get into spoilers, but if you've seen the '82 version, you can kind of guess what happens. It also ends exactly the way fans of Carpenter's film would hope.
All in all, the child is equal to the sum of its parents, both outstanding achievements of their respective times. If I have any gripes at all, it would be that there wasn't a lot of mystery for me going into this, as I knew what to expect from the creature. Also, although the effects were good, they still prove that CGI is less than practical effects when things are happening that practical effects can do just as well. Seriously, watch the '82 and then watch this. I think you'll agree.
I thoroughly enjoyed this take on the story and especially how well it homaged and tied into its progenitor. I give it a 9 out of 10. Go out and see it when it hits a theater near you.

UPDATE - It's easy to get caught up in the swell of things when you walk out of a screening high on the theater experience. It's also been a while since I watched the '82 film. So I've mulled it over a bit and then popped in the Carpenter version, and I have a few new things to say.
#1 The CGI is really not as effective as the practical effects. It's even more amazing to see what they were able to do in '82 without any computer aided imaging. The claustrophobic, shut off from the world, feeling is a lot more prevalent in the earlier film too. Part of it is that if you saw '82, you already know almost everything that's going to happen before it does. Some of that escaped my mind in the intervening years, but that leads me into the next thing...
#2 I have to give big kudos to the prequel for its attention to detail. They had the daunting task of making sure that everything we saw when the Americans visited the Norwegian camp is explained and accounted for in the prequel. That, they did an excellent job of. I'm sure if I spent several hours overanalyzing the sequences (as I'm sure some basement dweller somewhere will eventually do) I would be able to point out the differences, but it seemed pretty seamless to me. 
All the above has altered my score some (for the worse I'm afraid), but I did still enjoy it, and will definitely watch it again. It takes a big man to admit he's wrong, but luckily, I'm a big man. Revised score 7 out of 10, mostly for the CGI. The amazing work of nearly 30 years ago not only holds up, it surpasses.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Catfish (2010)

         Ariel Schulman
          Henry Joost
Directed by:  Ariel Schulman & Henry Joost
Summary: Filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost document a story involving Ariel's brother, Nev, a 24-year-old New York-based photographer, and Abby, from rural Michigan who contacts Nev via Facebook, asking for permission to make a painting from one of his photographs. (via imdb). 
This supposedly real life documentary (its veracity is doubted in many circles thanks to some idiosyncrasies and details portrayed in the film not lining up right) was billed as a horror thriller thanks to its intense and creepy trailer, but that's not what you get. And aside from the annoyance I felt at being duped by the trailer, it is an engrossing, and oddly endearing film. This will get a little spoilery from here on in, so if you still want to be surprised by the twists in the movie, stop reading now.

Everybody good? Ok, so Nev strikes up an online friendship with a little girl named Abby. Abby, 8, is a gifted painter, and Nev becomes drawn to her and her family, especially her older sister Megan, with whom he develops a personal relationship bordering on love. The only problem is, that although these people exist, Nev has never actually spoken with or corresponded with any of them. Instead, the matriarch of the clan is leading multiple lives online. Things come to a head as Nev starts to discover that things aren't what they seem, and the filmmakers travel to meet Abby and family in person.
Now, if this were the film advertised, this is where all hell would break loose, and we'd find out we're watching a found footage movie. There are the makings of a very dark and scary movie here, but in this case, things work out okay. 
The mom, Angela, confesses to her multiple lies as we watch, and that's where the tale gets really interesting as we see the lengths she went through to try and keep it all from unraveling. It's a sad story, and you really do feel for this poor woman who is obviously just trying to escape into fantasy to avoid her hard life.
This works as a warning that you can never really know who you are corresponding with online. I actually recommend this be watched with teenage kids to help underline the dangers of internet anonymity. 
It's a good film, if marketed poorly. I give it a 7.5 out of 10

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Flickist Recommends

         Joshua McIvor
          Jack Taylor
Directed by: Christopher Smith
Summary: The story revolves around the passengers of a yachting trip in the Atlantic Ocean who, when struck by mysterious weather conditions, jump to another ship only to experience greater havoc on the open seas. (via imdb). 
This kind of flew under the radar of most moviegoers. Partly because it looks like a straight horror film, which lessens the audience, and partly because it wasn't a huge studio release. As a horror fan, I can attest that it satisfies on that level, but the basic story and the way it's made lends itself to other audiences as well. There's more to it than your average horror film. It's an intriguing, if complicated, tale. I can't dig too deep into the details without giving away plot points and twists. 
The acting is believable and touching and the atmosphere is tense and moody, lending to the fear the cast feels. I give this movie a 9 out of 10 and recommend that you rent it today. It's definitely worth the trip.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

40 Days of Night(mares) Day 40: A MUST SEE Movie for Every Horror Movie Lover

Give this kid a treat.
The must see list for horror film fans is long. But there is a recent film that may have been overlooked. Trick R Treat is more than a horror film, it's actually a compendium of several vignettes spliced together by common happenstances and an over arching subplot consisting of Sam, the spirit of Halloween, doling out his own brand of justice against the offenders of the holiday's customs. Don't smash the pumpkins. Don't take down the decorations early. And so much more. It has a plethora of guest stars ranging from Oscar winner, Anna Paquin to Dylan Baker to the always great Brian Cox.
It has the feel of a television holiday special, but with some good gore, effects, and a less than family friendly vision of the day. Each of the small stories stands well on its own, but the ways they tie themselves together make sit feel less like the Twilight Zone Movie and more like Pulp Fiction. It's a well made, well paced, well shot, well acted and well told story. It has made a huge spot for itself on my annual must-watch Halloween movie list. If you haven't caught it yet, remedy this sad situation immediately. After all, there's only thirty days left until All Hallow's Eve rears it's pumpkin shaped head. That's it for the 40 day challenge. I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I have writing it and rewatching these movies. Until the next challenge, happy viewing!

40 Days of Night(mares) Day 39: Horror Movie That Should Be Seen On a Big Screen

I like when a horror movie can work on you on more than one level. It always draws you in a bit more when you're confronted with smaller fears first or other situations that are relatable and make you feel for the characters. For example, The Strangers has an opening sequence with no horror in it whatsoever, where we realize that Scott Caan's character just asked Liv Tyler's to marry him, and she said no, and they're going to a remote house for a romantic weekend. The scenes are so uncomfortable, it almost makes you happy when the bad guys show up that you can get away from that feeling.
Not for nothing, it's one of
my favorite posters too.
That's why The Descent is a such a good experience too. For those that don't know, the movie centers on a group of friends who make annual extreme sports adventures. This year, they decide to go spelunking in a cave no one has ever explored. There a couple of times early in the movie where a character will become trapped while trying to shimmy through a crevice. The fear is palpable and believable. No one knows where they are. They can't call for help. And the thought of being trapped like that and the inevitable horrible death that would follow is scary in and of itself, and that's before the mutant-inbred-cannibal creatures show up.
So, why should this be seen on a big screen? Because when those stuck moments come up, the enormity of the screen becomes pivotal. It's just as terrifying a situation on your home TV, but that expanse of screen somehow has the effect of making the claustrophobic feeling even more intense.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Footloose (2011)

Stars - Kenny Wormald
          Julianne Hough
          Dennis Quaid
Directed by: Craig Brewer
Summary: City kid Ren McCormack moves to a small town where rock 'n' roll and dancing have been banned, and his rebellious spirit shakes up the populace. (via imdb). 
I have to say I went into the theatre not expecting very much, and, once again, I was pleasantly surprised. It's not a bad remake. It's faithful to the original, a little too faithful if I'm being honest, but throws in a few tweaks to modernize the story. But that, in its way, is what's wrong with the concept. 
Somehow, a southern town, even a deeply religious and scared town, choosing to ban dancing in public just doesn't ring true. And some of the additions, like showing that some of the town's youths partake in underground dancing, fill the plot holes of the original, but not in a way that helps.
So, what's right? The dancers are amazingly talented at what they do, which makes up for a little stiffness in their acting. They manage to pay homage to the original, and there are a veritable shit-ton of winks and nods to the original. 
Which leads me to what's bad. I could almost swear that they shot this movie off the script from the Kevin Bacon version. It also goes way out of the way to style the lead exactly like Bacon. Same outfits, same haircuts, and same dance moves. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you're mildly ADHD/OCD like me, it becomes so glaring that it distracts the storytelling. It didn't need to be that way. A nod here, a subtle tweak here would have sufficed. I mean the audience for this movie is not my generation, so who did they put these things in for? Also, they recycle virtually the entire soundtrack from the original, and in mostly the same sequences, with two distinct and variably effective changes. First, the version of Holding Out For A Hero is melancholy and morose, and, while well done, doesn't suit the tone of the lyrics. Secondly, and egregiously, they completely throw out the angry dance music, although that sequence is in this version. They instead choose to go in a hip hop direction, which frankly doesn't work as well. His dance is clumsy and frustrated instead of intense and angry. Opportunity missed.
Overall though, the movie is just fine. A watchable film which I would grade a 6 out of 10. If you survived the 80s and loved the original, you could take your kids, as I did, and let them enjoy their version. But you could just as easily grab the original off Netflix and enjoy it just as much.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

40 Days of Night(mares) Day 38: Best CGI in a Horror Movie

On the heels of the last entry, we jump to a good example of CGI. Sam Raimi makes great spectacle movies and knows good practical effects and when it's necessary to use CGI to fulfill his vision. Argue all you want that Spiderman 3 goes off the rails, and he probably wouldn't argue much back, but helming such big blockbuster movies allowed him to study CGI and apply it to his first love, horror.
I liked Drag Me to Hell overall, despite it's extraneous use of Apple products in blatant pandering. It's a solid movie with some good jolts and a decent plot. It uses its effects effectively (tongue twister) and it looks visually appealing. Raimi's not Cameron and so he doesn't have to create whole worlds, and he does what he can in practical effects to heighten the believability. The CGI is crisp and not distracting to the eye. It blends well and avoids the cyber blur that can happen when effects are rushed or underfunded (think Sharktopus).
It's a solid movie, and I would give it a 7.5 out of 10.
Bonus video:

40 Days of Night(mares) Day 37: Best Special Effects in a Horror Movie

I want to apologize for not posting yesterday. Between trying to keep my energy up for the first SlasherCast podcast and feeling pretty terrible for the last four days, I just couldn't get it done. Having said that, I was terribly excited to write about this issue, because I feel very passionately about it.
Jack and David just
 saw a glittery vampire.
CGI effects can be used to great effect, but in cases where practical effects can be done, it makes no sense to go the computer route. It always rings a little false and looks a little off, such as The Wolfman's CGI werewolf running across the rooftops of London. It looks fake and pulls you out of the movie almost as much as Benicio Del Toros's bored line delivery.
The werewolf transformation scene is probably one of the clearest examples to show. An American Werewolf in London came out in 1981, 30 years ago, and no one has yet to top this scene:
30 years later, we get this:

Uhh... yeah... so that happened. It loses the impact and just plain looks shitty in comparison. Some of the best special effects ever are done in a practical manner, and they almost always (unless you're trying to make 8 foot tall blue cats play basketball) work better. Aside from the amazing Rick Baker led transformation scene, there's loads of fantastic makeup work as Jack starts to decay and David's victims start appearing in his visions. And to top it all off, there's a brilliant pseudo-nazi-werewolf-stormtrooper (not the Star Wars kind) sequence that is one of the most disturbing things put on film.
American Werewolf in London would earn its 10 out of 10 rating on the effects alone, but even without that, John Landis makes a damn good movie.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

40 Days of Night(mares) Day 36: Favorite Contemporary Actor in a Horror Movie

It's been a while since someone's acting has blown me away in a horror film. So long, in fact, that I couldn't come up with a clear-cut example. But I was enthralled recently by the quite grace, the understated delivery, and the raw crazy of one man recently. Now, whether or not the movie, Red State, is technically horror is a discussion for another day, tomorrow in fact. The inaugural episode of SlasherCast will delve into the good and bad of Kevin Smith's first foray into darker territory.
But, as I said in my review earlier, Michael Parks is fantastic in his role. His manner is calm, even while pumping gunfire at ATF agents. He's at once grandfatherly and even tempered and completely, fantastically deranged. He is a great version of the crazed evangelist who is willing to go to extremes for his beliefs.
There's a moment I describe in my review where he is casually sipping coffee during a raucous demonstration outside a funeral. His manner is so understated in that scene, that you only realize much later in the film that he was quite likely responsible for that dead body and what his casual manner really means. He is hardcore religious and feels so righteous that this crime means nothing to him except vindication.
Additionally, Parks has a fantastic voice, as he demonstrates in the film and on a separately recorded album of spirituals. His rendition of "Closer Walk to Thee" is ethereal and toe-tappingly heartfelt. I highly recommend checking it out if you can appreciate that style of music at all.

40 Days of Night(mares) Day 35: Movie that Started Your Love of Horror.

The year was.... well, frankly I don't know. But a young Mike begged, and I mean that literally, begged to watch Kingdom of the Spiders. It's an older, nature and science attack movie starring the ever Shatastic William Shatner. This is one of my earliest memories period, but outside of reading Stephen King at a very young age, it's my earliest memory of a foray into horror.
Dr. Shock and his amazing eyebrows
It's not a great movie, but to a young man, it was fantastic. Until... let me just say that the movie didn't scare me at all, but my dad got the grand idea of cutting a spider out of a black trash bag and gently lowering it onto my leg during one of the more tense moments. Needless to say, I promptly lost my shit, screamed and ran away like a frightened squirrel. Ah, memories.
Anyway, that didn't deter my love of the macabre, and it just snowballed from there thanks to the Saturday airings of Creature Double Feature featuring Dr. Shock. It was love at first zipper-backed costume.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Real Steel (2011)

Stars - Hugh Jackman
          Evangeline Lily
          Dakota Goyo
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Summary: A boxing drama set in the near-future where 2,000-pound humanoid robots do battle. (via imdb). 
Okay, imdb, you let me down a little with that synopsis. It leaves out a huge portion of the plot. But, to be fair, that's all I was expecting out of this was a live-action Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, but it delivers so much more. 
At the heart of the movie, is a down on his luck former boxer who has lost all faith in himself, and the child he abandoned from birth. Of course, this being a Disney film (via Touchstone), the mother is naturally dead. I was pleasantly surprised by how touching and fun this movie was. It has a ton of heart and emotion. The action sequences were well handled and didn't seem to cartoonish in its CGI. 
This is more of a family movie than I had imagined as well. The crowd got really into the fight sequences, cheering and clapping.
The ending is somewhat predictable, but not entirely expected. The acting is great, especially the young son, Dakota Goya, who is like a talented Jake Lloyd, and bares a passing resemblance. Shawn Levy, more known for his family friendly films like Night at the Museum and The Pink Panther, does an admirable job with the action and keeps the reins in check on the pace. It plays well and is emotionally gripping. I highly recommend it for audiences of all ages.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

40 Days of Night(mares) Day 34: Horror Movie Ruined by the Ending

In horror, there are a few things you have to get right to make it work. You need a sympathetic lead, usually a virginal, attractive blonde. You need a few good kills with good effects. And you need an ending that doesn't piss off the viewer and ties up the story well (at least until the next sequel). Some franchises do that well, like the majority of the Saw films, that tie together all the plot points and manage to insert a new twist every time.
Then, there's Friday the 13th Part VIII, Jason Takes Manhattan. Okay, I know you're thinking, "but the same boat that was in a lake somehow pulls into Manhattan?" Granted, there are a few notable plot holes in this particular installment, but none of them, including Jason in Times Square (which is still a badass image), compares to the final moments in the battle against Jason.


For those of you who didn't know, there is apparently toxic sewage under the streets of New York. And apparently, this sewage is strong enough to not only kill an undead maniac from a lake, but can also regenerate him to child form before he dies.
No, wait.... WTF? Seriously? Yes, that's what they did. I shit you not. That was their grand idea for the ending.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

40 Days of Night(mares) Day 33: Favorite Slasher Movie

The golden age of the slasher movie was the 80s, but it's finally starting to make a comeback. That's why I chose a modern example for tonight's selection. Adam Green (@ on Twitter) is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors of late. He knows how to appeal to the slasher mentality as well as go for more visceral scares as well. 
Hatchet is a perfect throwback to the old style slasher movie. Add 1 part legend of a killer in a remote area, 1 part a tormented child who grows into a brutal mass murderer, 1 part of people too stupid to not venture out into an area purportedly containing said maniac. Stir together a little sex and violence and make sure your bad guy fits the part (the always impressive Kane Hodder, @KaneHodderKills) and bake into a frenzy with a special appearance by fan favorite Tony Todd, and you got yourself a tasty little treat.
Victor Crowley is an impressive slasher. Strong, deformed, and violent beyond the normal. Hodder, mostly known for being Jason in several Friday the 13th movies, gives an impressive performance. It's good old fashioned gore and splatter and a fun ride. 
On a side note, Green also made a great suspenseful horror entry called Frozen. It's far removed from the slasher style of Hatchet, but will stick with you longer. Friends trapped on a ski lift have to worry about freezing to death and how to get back down, and that's just the beginning.  It's a genuinely terrifying example of how horror movies don't have to have a kill scene every 8 minutes to deliver a great movie.

Friday, September 23, 2011

40 Days of Night(mares) Day 32: A Movie that Scared You as a Child

Well known nutbar
To me, nothing in a horror movie is very scary, even as a child. I've always been unsettled at the worst, except for one movie. I begged and begged to watch Helter Skelter. Yes, it's not a horror movie, but a reenactment of the investigation of and eventual capture/conviction of Charles Manson and his "Family", based on the book by Vincent Bugliosi, who was the prosecutor who led the trial.
It's an absolute chilling tale of a man with the charisma and control to convince the people who followed him to commit atrocious murders on his orders. It wasn't this that scared me. Even at an early age, I was aware of humanity's capacity for doing harm to one another. It wasn't the brutality and callousness of the people who committed the actual crime either, or the fact that they were willing to kill a pregnant woman during their rampage.
I don't remember specifically what age I was when I watched this, but I remember the part of the movie that scared me. In the closing seconds of the film, it explains that his death sentence was commuted when the death penalty was repealed. And then, it said that Charles Manson would be eligible for parole in the year 19XX. And whatever that XX was, was the year I watched it. I was convinced that they would have to let him go, and he would then continue his plans to create anarchy (helter skelter) by systematically destroying the "pigs" in our society.
I no longer fear this, of course, because thankfully, good old Charlie is out of his ever-loving gourd. Having watched a few of his parole hearings, I'm sure he'll never set foot outside a jail alive.

Cuckoo for Coco Puffs
But, I still remember that gut clenching fear I had upon seeing those words and knowing that, given the chance, he would never stop.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

40 Days of Night(mares) Day 31: Favorite Horror Movie Theme Song

This is another category that took absolutely no thought whatsoever. There are songs you hear that take you back instantly and provide total sense memory. They dig into your subconscious and burrow there to be awoken later. The easiest example is hearing Christmas carols. You automatically form sight and sound associations. Or, you can't hear the opening bass notes of the Jaws theme and not instantly know it.
For me, there's one horror theme that automatically makes me think of trolling the neighborhood in my cheap Sears-bought vinyl costume with matching plastic mask that dug into my skin and would leave a mark for days to come. Dragging behind me a pillowcase stuffed with loot acquired from my neighbors. It's an immediate reaction and is so tied to the season that it permeates the decorative lights that make sounds. Of course, I'm referring to the theme from John Carpenter's classic, Halloween.

I still feel a thrill each year as I plop down to watch it in my annual ritual and the lilting piano starts up. It's a masterpiece of minimalist cue music that builds the tension each time it strikes up and "the Shape" appears. 30 odd years later, it's still the first thing I think of when someone talks about halloween. The second thought is below:

Warning: It will get stuck in your head!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

40 Days of Night(mares) Day 30: Your Favorite Horror Movie

This fight was reminiscent of Tyson vs Spinks. It was over before most of the participants knew there was a fight. In the horror pantheon, this reigns supreme in my book, and shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who knows me. Honestly, this is the day I have looked forward to the most.
In 1980, on a summer's evening, the world was introduced to Camp Crystal Lake. 30 years later, the Friday the 13th franchise continues to be one of the most successful media franchises in American cinema, as much for it's box office grosses as for its continued licensing and references in popular media. As a whole, the franchise, and more specifically the look of its dominant character, Jason Voorhees, has continued to pervade the fabric of movies, television, comics, collectibles and more.
Of course, in the first movie, Jason isn't the killer and is only shown in a supposed dream sequence. It's a little late for spoilers on a 31 year old movie, but beware...
Jason Voorhees is a hydrocepahalic little boy who dies in a tragic swimming accident while the teenage camp counselors aren't paying attention. That's enough to make any parent mad, but in that time, you didn't sue the camp, so what's a mother to do? I know! Grab your handy kitchen knife, or anything else sharp and at hand, and take revenge on the sex-crazed camp counselors who ignored your drowning little boy while listening to the voice of said son repeat a "kill them mommy" mantra in your twisted head. Sounds reasonable, right?
Anywho, one of the girls, the virginal one, naturally, gets lucky and chops off Mrs. Voorhees's head. Problem solved, right?
Except that for the next 29 years, Jason would keep coming back to exact his unending revenge on anyone dumb enough to come back to Crystal Lake, or Manhattan, or even space (and Elm Street, which is conveniently in a neighboring town).
I personally enjoy all the films, although not at the same level, and will watch them in succession at least once a year. One of my biggest thrills was meeting Kane Hodder, one of the Jasons, and getting his autograph. So, whether it's a little boy in the lake, a demented, scraggly bearded hooded murderous Lenny hermit, or the hockey masked living dead unstoppable machine that is even good freeze dried, I'm in.
Here's their scores:

Friday the 13th (1980)  8/10
Part 2 7/10
3D 8/10
The Final Chapter 7/10
A New Beginning 6/10 (Jason only appears in this as visions/dreams, killings are by a copycat)
Jason Lives 8/10
The New Blood 6/10
Jason Takes Manhattan 6/10
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday 6/10
Jason X 5/10
Freddy vs. Jason 7.5/10
Friday the 13th (2009) 8/10