30 October 2008

6WH: Oct 30

Burial Ground (1981) directed by Andrea Bianchi
A guy I work with happens to be a huge horror movie fan and recommended I check this one out. Saying that it was 90 minutes of watching papier-mâché heads explode may be a little harsh, but that's what it felt like. Worth it just to see Peter Bark, a really creepy-looking little person who plays the roll of the child in the movie. He has an oedipal relationship with his mother, but, since the actor is really an adult, they can get away with it. Tip: if your son ever comes back from the dead, never offer to breastfeed him. (6/10)

29 October 2008

6WH: Oct 29

Phantasm IV: Oblivion (commentary by Don Coscarelli, Reggie Bannister and Angus Scrimm) (2005)
More than likely recorded after their P2 commentary session, so they were good and warmed up (or, it was just that their memories were a decade fresher and easier to recall). Angus doesn't have too much to say in this one, but I think that's because he's too polite to interrupt and Don and Reggie, who have a constant stream of anecdotes to discuss. In fact, sometimes they're so busy talking about one story, they will neglect to comment on something cool happening in the movie at that moment... but that's a minor complaint. Few silences, good background info and a trio a buddies hanging out talking about something they love. Yep, this is how it's done. (8/10)

Phantasm IV: Oblivion: Behind the Scenes (2008)
Phantasm: Actors Having a Ball
Phantasmagorical Mystery Tour (2005)
Phantasm: Genesis (2005)
Phandom (2005)

Phantasmagoria directed by Jake West (2005)
Pretty much all I wanted in a feature-length documentary about the series. All of the major players are interviewed: two Coscarellis, all four main actors and even Kathy "Lady in Lavender" Lester. The first half is spent discussing P1 with the remaining 45 minutes giving equal shakes to the three sequel. For me, there was a lot of repeat information -- having just watched all of the commentaries and every featurette of the series that exists -- but it's always nice to have everything collected into one, definite spot.

Poor Mike. You can tell he's still pissed off about P2. It's not that he gets angry, but he starts to blink a lot and look away while talking about it. Poor Bill. He was pained that his character turned evil in P4. The brotherly love between the two actors is real, thanks to the fun of filming P1, and he enjoyed that it showed in the movies. Poor Reg. All of his songs got cut from P1. Not that this is, in any way, a whoa-is-me documentary. But, those were three things I hadn't known about before.

Hopefully, if P5 ever gets made, the same crew will update this documentary to include it. It's just too bad the North American DVD release of P1 only got an edited version of this. (8/10)

And, that's it. My unofficial Phantasm Halloween celebration has come to its conclusion. I've exhausted every piece of Tall Man-related video I've got in the house. While The Thing may be my favorite individual movie of all time, the Phantasm series is my favorite series of films. The same writer/director for every movie, (nearly) the same family of actors for every movie, hell, even the guy doing the voices for the dwarf creatures was the same for all four movies. All of this spanning twenty years. This is something special. Thank you, Don, Reg, Bill, Mike and Angus.

A grown man with toys?

6WH: Oct 28

Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998) directed by Don Coscarelli
It's been ten years already since we've had a new Phantasm movie? Man. We're now passing the record set between P1 and P2. Well, if it has to end here, I'm okay with that. P4 brings everything full-circle in Phantasm style.

This movie is really for "phans" only. I can't imagine anyone not familiar with the previous three movies getting anything other than a headache out of this one. And it's probably mostly for phans who love the first movie. This isn't a "hey gang, let's drive this cool car through the apocalypse and kick dwarf ass!" movie like P2 and P3; it's back to the dream-like thoughtfulness of P1. Some may complain -- and it was a result of a low budget, to be sure -- but the integration of the never-before-seen scenes from P1 are absolutely fascinating to me. The scene in which Jody and Mike hang the Tall Man, in particular, is beautiful.

I also love the new scenes in which Mike visits Jebediah Morningside. Sometime around the turn of the century, this scientist activates a homemade spacegate ("dimensional fork"), walks through it and accidently alerts some terrible being that there's a ripe planet/dimension over here waiting to be harvested. Those scenes suddenly make the series very lovecraftian, which I think fits perfectly. Lovecraft was the godfather of sci-fi/horror. His monsters weren't just monsters; they were unimaginable, intelligent entities from some distant part of this vast universe who regarded humans as we do insects. Which is how I think of the Tall Man.

Not unexpectedly, there are still plenty of questions left unanswered by the end of the film. What is the infection Jody mentions in the future, empty L.A.? What does the Tall Man need with the sphere that came out of Mike's head? What are the hundreds of spacegates in the desert going to bring to this world? But, ultimately, those questions can be just fodder for fun speculation if P5 never comes. The point of the movie -- all three sequels, I think -- is summed up in Reggie's last action: Reg angrily picks up his quad-barrel shotgun and dives into the frightening unknown after the Tall Man, determined to help his dying friend. Steadfast to the end, that Reg. (8/10)

26 October 2008

6WH: Oct 26

Pumpkin carving works best with a couple of horror TV shows playing in the background as you scoop the guts out:

Tales from the Crypt: "Strung Along" (1992) directed by Kevin Yagher
Zach Galligan of Gremlins and Waxwork fame is seeing a woman married to an old, rich puppeteer with a heart condition. Logically, he concocts an elaborate scheme to give the old man a heart attack involving building an animatronic duplicate of the old man's favorite puppet in order to make the puppet look like it's knifing the girl to death. One wonders what plan B was going to be if the sight of this killer puppet made the old man laugh rather than making his heart stop? (7/10)

The Munsters: "Mummy Munster" (1965) directed by Ezra Stone
Herman falls asleep inside of a sarcophagus at a museum -- don't ask -- and gets mistaken for a mummy. Hijinks ensue. Most hilarious is when Lilly comes to the museum to claim him, looking to the museum workers as a completely insane woman convinced a 4000-year-old mummy is her husband. (7/10)

Halloween (2007) directed by Rob Zombie
When it isn't The Thing, the original Halloween is my favorite horror movie of all time. Needless to say, the announcement of a remake had me less than thrilled. Going into this, though, I was determined to give it a fair shake. I like Rob Zombie and I knew he is also a huge fan of the original. Out of anyone in Hollywood, I knew he'd at least be respectful.

Zombie tried really hard to get me to accept this. Look at this list of awesome character actors he has in the movie:
I never imagined I'd been watching Clint Howard and Udo Kier in a scene together. I thought my head was going to explode.

The "Michael's origin story" part at the beginning of the movie wasn't as bad as I'd feared. Carpenter already did the mythic, force-of-nature Michael perfectly. There's no reason to try to copy that, so Zombie went for a real world Michael who had bad parents. Fair enough. From killing his pet rat to killing a fellow student to his time at Smith's Grove, we see Michael slowly lose his humanity. Did I want to see this? Not really. But, it wasn't done too badly. My main complaints would be that William Forsythe was a tad over-the-top as the verbally abusive stepdad and making Michael's mom a stripper was pushing the low-class family thing a bit too hard. If anything, this made me keep thinking of Mallory's family from Natural Born Killers, complete with sitcom laugh track.

The remainer of the film is a bizarro world version of the original, where things are slightly different or out of place. Which, I have to admit, is kind of fun. As a fan of the original, it's fun to pick out the references and twists (Bob actually puts the sheet on first! We get to meet Paul!). Ultimately, though, I think many of the changes Zombie made were for the worse. For example, he has the Laurie-Michael confrontation take place in the dilapitated Myers house instead of in Tommy Doyle's house. No longer is the babysitter being attacked in a seemingly safe, normal suburban home; now she's in a stereotypical haunted house. It's not as effective. The pacing is massively sped up as well. Lynda is killed almost immediately (again, in the Myers house). There's never any tension allowed to build or any time spent with atmosphere. We're just dumped right into the action. Michael is also made to be a rather ineffective killer. In the cut on the Blu-ray, both Annie and Dr. Loomis are attacked by Michael and (seemingly) survive. I suppose this fits with a more real world version of the character, but it's kind of odd.

Rob: for the love of Herman Munster, let's get over the '70s fetish. The beginning of this movie takes place in 1978 (per the script and, clearly, the music and posters in the film). The last half takes place 17 years later... in 2007. WTF? My wife and I both found this to be quite distracting: "when is this supposed to be?" she kept asking me.

Better than Halloweens 6, 8 and maybe even 5. So it's got that going for it. Like 99.9% of horror remakes, though, it's just unnecessary. Just ignore continuity and make a new sequel instead. No need to rehash the origin story. Plop Michael in Haddonfield on October 31st, come up with a least one interesting twist, and let him go to town. Anyway, this one could've been worse. (6/10)

OLR: Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West (2006)

I'm still not voting for McCain. (2/10)

d. Wayne Kopping

[Chef Gregory and I were both mystified why we each got this thing in the mail.]

25 October 2008

6WH: Saturday, October 25th

Chef Gregory drove down this weekend to join in the Halloween fun. Both having kids now, hanging out old-school is not something we get to do very often. In fact, his last trip down was during last year's 6WH celebration, 13 months ago. This time, Chef used his magic chef powers to whip us up a homemade apple pie. I got the traditional mulled apple cider simmering at the same time, so the house was filled with a pleasant, seasonal aroma.

Phantasm IV: Oblivion trailer (1998)
Dr. Butcher, M.D. trailer (1980)
Courage the Cowardly Dog: "The Demon in the Mattress" (1999)

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007) directed by Jon Knautz
Disappointing. After catching the trailer for this, I was excited to see it. It looked like it could be a new Evil Dead 2, with an everyman ass-kicker of a hero. I guess that's sort of a true, but all of that type of fun is squeezed into the last 20 minutes or so of the movie. Preceding that are the trials and tribulations of an anger-prone plumber as he takes a night class, fights with his girlfriend and repairs his teacher's plumbing. With the title this movie has, it really should not be this slow of a build. I wanted to see wall-to-wall monster ass-kicking throughout the movie. Instead, I had to wait for Robert Englund to ham it up for an hour before he finally turned into the one monster Jack has to fight (though, to be fair, that monster creates more critters out of Jack's fellow students).

Still, I'm looking forward to seeing this director's follow-up. I have a feeling he'll learn some lessons from this one and improve his game quite a bit. (6/10)

Frankenpimp fake trailer (2000)
Cat in the Brain trailer (1990)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror: Attack of the 50 Ft. Eyesores" (1994)
Metalocalypse: "Dethtroll" (2006)
Metalocalypse: "Dethwater" (2006)

The Wicker Man: Extended Version (1973) directed by Robin Hardy
Chef had never see this one and suggested it as something to watch. It's always a pleasure to show someone a guaranteed great flick for the first time, so we popped it in. I love that the reactions this movie evocates are the opposite of what they really should be. Howie really is a good guy. All he wants to do is find the missing girl or catch her murderer, and he thinks, essentially, an island full of cultists is covering it up. This is honorable. The islanders are really not good people. They conspire to trap an innocent man on their island in order to burn him alive so they'll have apples to sell people next year. This is horrible. Yet, my sympathies are always with the pagans and never with the policeman until the very end of the movie, even knowing what's coming. The island's culture is portrayed as so happy and complete, it's difficult not to want to live there. For me, anyway.

I didn't realize until afterward, but our feast of apple pie and apple cider was quite appropriate for this film, with Summerisle's main export being apples. Neat. (9/10)

Dust Devil DVD trailer (1992)
Dollman trailer (1991)
Happy Tree Friends: "Remains to be Seen" (2004

Masters of Horror: "Valerie on the Stairs" (2006) directed by Mick Garris
"This is the best one so far," said Chef. He'd previously seen "The Fair-Haired Child" and "Homecoming" with me during prior hanging-outs. I think "Fair-Hair" knocks it out of the park, but this one is my second favorite from season 2 (my favorite is "The Black Cat"). I actually picked it partially, I'll admit, because it has, I think, the hottest naked woman in the history of television. Wow. (8/10)

There could only be one choice for this week's Halloween Jones Soda flavor: in honor of Summerisle, Dread Apple it was. Absent from last year, the apple-flavored drink returns. I don't really remember 2006's Spider Cider, so I can't say if that's what this is. Interesting that they upgraded the apple flavor to a glass bottle this year, though (2005 and 2006, it was in the small cans). In either container, it's not great. It's even worse if you drink it after having some real apple cider and real apple pie. That really emphasizes the fakeness of the flavoring. You're sort of left with the impression of drinking apple-scented hand soap. I actually couldn't even finish it and went back to drinking my real cider.

Lord Summerisle approved: apple pie, mulled apple cider and Jones Dread Apple soda.

24 October 2008

6WH: Oct 23

Tales from the Crypt: "Split Personality" (1992) directed by Joel Silver
Producer Joel Silver's only directing credit. He didn't do a bad job at all. The show's about twins, so he gets to play with a lot of mirror images and parallelism, etc. Fun, visual stuff. Plus, Joe Pesci stars as the flim-flam man that marries both of the twins. Man, he is in full-on Pesci mode here. Thick, Jersey accent. Lots of "what the fuck is this shit!?" and "badda-bing" dialogue. Amusing to watch. (7/10)

23 October 2008

6WH: Oct 22

Phantasm III (commentary by A. Michael Baldwin and Angus Scrimm) (2005)
Apparently, this was the first of the new batch of commentaries recorded. It's disappointing that Don Coscarelli didn't participate, as he was always a great driver of conversation and full of background info. Mike and Angus are great, but they really weren't in this movie that much. They're often commenting on long stretches where neither of them were present for the filming. You gotta love Angus, though. He quite obviously spent the entire preceding day boning up on the movie in order to be better prepared to talk about it. He mentions re-reading his journals from the filming and he always has the name of a crew member or bit actor handy. Mike is also constantly asking Angus about plot points (if the spheres have brains in them, how do they have room for the cutting tools in there?) and Angus is always ready with a plausible answer (there are different spheres for different purposes). Still, there are more stretches of silence in this one than the previous commentary, though we're given some juicy bits of info here and there (some gangbangers didn't appreciate them filming in the mortuary where their homies were buried, for one). (7/10)

Phantasm III: "Deleted Scene" (1993)
Phantasm III: Where the Dead Are No Longer That Way
Angus Scrimm & Don Coscarelli at Fangoria Convention in 1993 (1993)

22 October 2008

6WH: Oct 21

Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge (1991) directed by David DeCoteau
I remembered this one as being the best of this series. Puppets vs Nazis! The origin of the puppets! Seventeen years later (!), meh, not so exciting. Much time is spent with the evil Major Krauss having vaguely angry arguments with the not-as-evil Dr. Hess regarding the Nazi's project to reanimate the dead for cannon fodder. Hess repeatedly stops Krauss from dragging puppet master Toulon into his torture chambers, ensuring the only interesting thing we see the Major do on screen is die. Krauss's death is also the only interesting part of the titular revenge. Toulin has his puppets kill a few other Nazis in revenge for them murdering his wife, but they're nothing special. Krauss's death, though neat, almost felt out of place. It was more Hellraiser than Puppet Master, involving ropes and hooks and such.

An ambitious movie -- especially for Full Moon, being a period piece and all -- but ultimately unfullfilling. It's not looking good for me keeping this box set in my DVD collection. I know it only goes downhill from here... (6/10)

Phantasm III (1993) directed by Don Coscarelli
I like this one more every time I watch it. I, like many other others, had been originally disappointed with this sequel. "Too goofy" was the main complaint, followed closely by "I hate the kid." The kid really isn't that bad. He's a good actor -- better than the lady that plays Rocky -- and he fits into P3's theme of doing everything from the previous movies in a bigger way. They crash the hearse in a spectacular flip far better than how they destroyed the Hemi in P2. The Talls Man's hands transform into cool hand-demons, much scarier than the rubber finger-fly from P1. There's an order of magnitude more sentinals and dwarves in P3 than any other film. And, Tim is a hardened, ass-kicking version of Mike from P1 (made obvious by the duplicate shot of Reg and Tim at the fireplace talking).

This is not to say I like Tim more than kid-Mike from P1. Mike from P1 is an average kid, easy to relate to. Tim's greatest flaw is that he is not, especially in light of Mike from the previous movie, which makes him seem a bit cartoony. Fortunately, I think, the kid's acting reigns this tendancy in a bit. And, c'mon, you have to love the Home Alone parody when he's introduced: of course, the robbers would be killed by the precocious kid's traps.

The big reveal in this movie is that Mike, like the Tall Man himself, has a large sentinal where his brain should be. "Reg, don't believe everything you see. Seeing is easy. Understanding, well... takes a little more time," says Jody after Mike runs off. Though the Tall Man strongly implies that he is, I don't think Mike's always been one of the Tall Man's kind. I think he did something to Mike, maybe when he was in his coma at the beginning of the film. Mike, I'm fairly certain, would've noticed that he has yellow blood at some point in his life before then. Alternatively, Mike could've woken up into another reality after his coma, one in which he's a Tall Man-thing raised as a human.

My guess is that Liz was also a sphere-head -- or potential sphere-head -- explaining why Mike and her could communicate telepathically. This would also be a reason for why the Tall Man takes her head with him after the car crash. I wouldn't have been shocked to see her appear as a sentinal in P4, brainwashed into serving the Tall Man.

Anyway, P3 throws out some answers -- the Tall Man is building an army, using corpse bodies for dwarf soldiers and corpse brains to control the sentinals -- and raises even more questions before it ends. This is why I love the Phantasm series. It has the *cough* balls to never explain itself completely. So few movies can get away with this. It's refereshing when a director/writer says: "you're smart enough... come up with your own theories."

Side note: I'm glad to see Anchor Bay has changed the title card:
This "Lord of the Dead" stuff always smacked of Universal's interference. It was also written in a rather goofy font on the original VHS/LD releases, not at all matching the gothic "Phantasm" above. It's much better that P3's title card matches the other sequels. (8/10)

21 October 2008

6WH: Oct 20

Puppet Master II (1991) directed by Dave Allen
Maybe slightly better than the first. We learned why the puppets are so fond of killing people: obviously, it's because the puppet master requires brain matter to make the secret formula that gives them life. Good ol' Buck Flower plays a redneck who doesn't get nearly enough screentime or lines. The scene where his wife battles Leech Woman and Blade was pretty cool, though. The life-sized dolls that Toulin creates for himself and his love are always creepy.

Torch really doesn't make sense as a new puppet, though. If Toulin needs to collect uncooked brain matter, replacing Tunneler with a flame-throwing doll wasn't wise. In fact, he even yells at Torch for the cooked brain material he brings back from the redneck cabin. A puppet with, like, a drill on one hand and an icecream scoop on the other would've served him better. But, complaining about plot holes in a Puppet Master movie is probably nonsensical itself. (6/10)

20 October 2008

6WH: Oct 19

Wicked Little Things (2006) directed by J.S. Cardone
"I'm sick of these ghost movies," said my wife as she got up and left after 15 minutes. I wished I could do the same. You know the drill: pissed off ghosts start killing people. Heroes must do XYZ so they can rest. This time, the ghosts are a Newsies-ish gang of children killed in a mine collapse ninety years ago. They roam the Pennsylvania mountainside, killing and eating people and animals they run into. What they really want, though, is to kill the asshole decedent of the owner of the mine that fell on them.

There's some beautiful countryside with some neat old houses in the movie. The gore effects are pretty good and I suppose seeing children act like the zombies from Night of the Living Dead after downing a fresh kill is fairly boundary-pushing. Other than that, there's nothing to admire here. Mediocre acting, poorly fleshed-out characters and a tedious story made this a chore to sit through. (5/10)

Reincarnation (2005) directed by Takashi Shimizu
More ghosts. This time, they're pissed-off about being murdered in a hotel 35 years ago. Somehow, they exist both as ghosts and as humans, reincarnated into unsuspecting bodies. Isn't this a violation of some kind of paranormal law? Can I get a rule book? Also, by some huge coincidence, all of the reincarnated people are hired to work on a movie about the murders. Inevitably, the murders begin to be re-enacted on the set / in the original hotel, with the new bodies morphing into the bodies of the original victims. Blah, blah, blah, the main character finds out she's not the reincarnation of the little girl victim, but the reincarnation of the murderer himself. Cut to: her freaking on the movie set, with everything we've been watching for the past hour being all in her mind. Cut to: an asylum, where the ghosts of the child victims haunt the insane girl. So, it wasn't really in her head, or something. Also, there's a creepy doll.

Moral of the story: it's OK to haunt your murderer, even if he's already died and been reincarnated into the body of an innocent girl. (5/10)

19 October 2008

6WH: Saturday, October 18th

A low-key Halloween weekend with just me and the missus. More visitors are due in the next two weekends, so it's not bad to have a break.

Phantasm III trailer (1993)
It's Alive trailer (1973)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror: Hex and the City" (2001)

Stuck (2007) directed by Stuart Gordon
If this is where Stuart Gordon is going these days, well, it's not a bad compromise between the director of Re-Animator and Dagon and the director of King of the Ants and Edmond. If he's going be doing realistic dramas now, I'd prefer them with the flavor of horror. Based on a true story, Stuck tells the tale of a woman, a man, and the car windshield he's stuck in when she slams into him in the middle of the night.

When I first read about this incident some years ago, I found the story horrifying, but not really surprising. There's a culture out there -- maybe really starting with my generation -- where people attempt to deny all responsibility for their mistakes. Nothing is ever their fault. The movie captures this quite well. Not only does Brandi do everything she can to sweep her little problem under the rug -- all the way up to trying to burn him and the car -- but she keeps asking him throughout the movie "why are you doing this to me?" That right there is as creepy as anything any crazed killer in a slasher movie's ever said. (7/10)

Prince of Darkness trailer (1987)
Q trailer (1982)
Saturday Night Live: "Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker: Devil's Night" (1993)

Beetle Juice (1988) directed by Tim Burton
I needed to cleanse my palate after so many crappy vengeful ghost movies. Now, where can I find a haunted house? Free babysitting, free tutoring and free dinner theater by critters who can't possibly raid your fridge or rack up long distance bills? Sign me up! (8/10)

Beetlejuice: "A-Ha!" (1990)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers trailer (1956)
Psycho trailer (1960)
Beavis and Butt-head: "Bungholio: Lord of the Harvest" (1995)

The Halloween Jones Soda flavor of the week was the new-for-this-year Spooookiwi. One of the oddest things I've ever tasted, really. At times it doesn't taste like anything other than soda water, then the faint flavor of bubblegum will sneak up and tickle the taste buds. It's an ethereal ghost flavor. I'm beginning to suspect that half of these Halloween flavors are really a testing ground for Jones' experimental concoctions. It's not like kiwi is inherently a fall flavor, anyway (or pomegranate, for that matter). I doubt this one'll pass the test; I don't foresee picking up a sixer of Jones Kiwi in the non-Halloween season anytime soon.

Horror magazines are great 6WH lunch time reading.
Shock Cinema is my favorite.

18 October 2008

Guest OLR: The Fly (1986)

True love: the willingness to put your significant other out of his misery so he doesn't continue existing as a human/fly/telepod door hybrid. (8/10)

d. David Cronenberg

6WH: Oct 17

Unrest (2006) directed by Jason Todd Ipson
So far, three out of six of these Horrorfest movies have been about vengeful ghosts. I didn't really care for this subgenre before watching these films... now I hate it. You'd think, being finally released from the torment that is life on Earth, the dead would be a little more relaxed. Nope. Do one little thing to their grave or to the body they no longer need and they go on a murdering rampage. Whiney, pissy little things they are, threatening the living until one of us comes up with the idea to rebury their remains.

Setting a horror movie amongst medical students taking a gross anatomy class is always a good starting point. To most folks, the idea of such a class is horrfying enough. Too bad the movie's plot doesn't much require such a setting. They could've danced on the dead lady's grave and had the same things happen, which is that the invisible ghost starts making people commit suicide left-and-right. Still, the setting was a good excuse for the slightly-unbelievable-but-cool scene of two med students swimming in a tank of formaldehyde tank filled with dead bodies. (6/10)

The Munsters: "Love Comes to Mockingbird Heights" (1965) directed by Joseph Pevney
Uncle Gilbert looks to have the exact mask used in the Black Lagoon movies, except with -- disturbingly -- the eyes hollowed out. The questions arises, though, whose uncle is he? Lily's in the habit of calling her dad "Grandpa," so it could be that Gilbert's actually her brother and is Eddie's uncle. Which is kinda weird. Dracula had a vampiress daughter -- sure, ok -- and a gillman son? Who the hell was Grandpa messing around with for that? Maybe a mermaid? (7/10)

17 October 2008

6WH: Oct 16

The Gravedancers (2006) directed by Mike Mendez
Asks the all-important question: could the ghosts from Ghostbusters II be scary in a serious film? The answers is: no, not really. They are especially non-frightening the way they are shot in this film. Ghost movies -- serious ones, anyway -- need subtlety in order to work. On the rare occasions where you allow the audience a good look at the ghost, it can't be a brightly lit scene or have long enough shots to see the flaws in the latex mask. Having the hero characters get into a fist-fight with a ghost -- say, the ghost of a middle-aged piano teacher -- is gonna probably come off as silly, too. It might also be a mistake to make the main protagonist, and only survivor of the three people who were haunted, a douchebag. Caring about the characters goes a long way into making the situations they're in scary. A great example of how not to make a ghost film. (5/10)

Penny Dreadful (2006) directed by Richard Brandes
The premise isn't bad. A teenage girl is deathly afraid of being inside of cars after a horrific car accident when she was a child. She goes on her first major road trip with her therapist, yadda-yadda-yadda, she's trapped in the car with a psycho killer outside. The killer spends most of the movie coming up with ways to scare her. He plants the corpse of her therapist in the driver's seat, moves the windshield wipers when she's not looking, throws blood all over the windshield, etc. A local wanders by and she begs him for help; he's killed. It's a slasher movie with only two characters, essentially.

The movie lost me during the girl's escape attempt. The killer wedged the car into a stand of trees so that all of the doors and windows were blocked. Inspired by her late therapist, she finally gets up the courage to try to push the car out by putting it into neutral and pushing against a tree trunk with her foot. It starts to work when the killer, of course, pops up and grabs her foot. There's a crunch, she screams, pulls her leg back into the car and discovers her pinky toe has been cut off (complete with CGI-enhanced shot of the mutilated foot). It's kinda like if in Halloween, Michael Myers suddenly sliced off one of Laurie's fingers. The drastic change in tone -- from slasher to torture porn -- was hard to get beyond. Combined with the ending -- which litterally made me say "Boo!" outloud -- and I was quite disappointed with this one. (6/10)

16 October 2008

6WH: Oct 15

Phantasm II (commentary by Don Coscarelli, Reggie Bannister and Angus Scrimm) (2005)
Ten years later, the guys are back doing another commentary for an entirely new video format. It's nice to have Reg join in this time. He comes off as a really easy-going guy having a blast chatting with a couple of old pals. This track isn't quite a good as the previous one, though. There are a few more stretches of silence than I'd have liked and a few too many "this is great" comments. Coscarelli does do a nice job, as always, of keeping the conversation going about the behind-the-scenes stuff. I would've liked to have heard something about the conflicts with Universal he had making this movie (making it less dream-like, replacing Mike with James, etc.), but my impression is that Coscarelli is too damned nice of a guy to dish dirt that way. (7/10)

Fangoria: "Tall Man" ad (1988)
Angus Scrimm at Fangoria Convention in 1989
Greg Nicotero: The Gory Days (2005)

15 October 2008

6WH: Oct 14

Phantasm II (1988) directed by Don Coscarelli
What an ultimate guy's fantasy: driving around with your best friend in a sweet car, picking up pretty hitchhikers, armed to the teeth with flamethrowers and quad-barrel shotguns, ready to save what's left of the world. It's hard to get more bad-ass than this, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons I love this flick so much.

The dreaminess of the first film takes a backseat to a more action-packed road trip/chase of the Tall Man, but thankfully doesn't disappear altogether. This creates a nice mix completely appropriate to the series: one minute, Mike is (day-)dreaming of corpses of future hitchhikers, the next he's torching a Tall Man demon.

One bit I'd never picked up on before was that Mike and Liz were the "only ones who can see what's going on" in regards to the Tall Man's slow rape of the country's small towns. It's a decent Phantasm-style explanation as to why the FBI/National Guard aren't crawling all over these dead towns, looking for clues as to what's happening. The Tall Man's influence over perception and dreams has sort of the entire country asleep, allowing him the freedom he needs. Or, Mike's still in the insane asylum and has cast himself as the hero of his own delusion. Either way. (8/10)

[Universal: frell you for keeping this film in your vaults. I know you're proud of being the worst major studio when it comes to home video, so just sell the damn thing to Anchor Bay so we can get a North American DVD already.]

13 October 2008

6WH: Oct 13

Dark Ride (2006) directed by Craig Singer
The setting makes this movie. I love "dark rides" -- I'd called them haunted rides -- from carnivals. Take an average slasher and dump it into one of these things: fun. This one certainly owes a lot to the excellent 1981 Tobe Hooper slasher The Funhouse, which has the same basic plot: kids sneak into a haunted ride at night and discover that a disfigured maniac lives inside. Throw in a horny hitchhiker, some magic mushrooms and a plot twist or two and it's different enough. A bit slow to get going, but a good slasher flick. (7/10)

The Munsters: "Country Club Munsters" (1965) directed by Joseph Pevney
Woo-hoo, back to The Munsters after a year. The Munsters win a membership to a country club. Little do the country club owners know, eh? Fun ensues as Herman completely trashes the golf course (accidentally, of course) and Lilly and Grandpa offend the blue bloods inside. Did women in '60s country clubs really prance around from table to table showing off their new dresses and announcing its cost? (7/10)

12 October 2008

OLR: Farscape: "The Peacekeeper Wars, Part Two" (2004)

I'm satisfied: I think it wraps up and pays off nearly everything that needed to be wrapped up and paid off in the best sci-fi series ever made. (8/10)

d. Brian Henson

OLR: Farscape: "The Peacekeeper Wars, Part One" (2004)

Pilot's weird voice was really bugging me, but it otherwise felt like it flowed right out of season 4. (8/10)

d. Brian Henson

6WH: Oct 11

BiL7 surprised me when he was game for watching more horror after getting back kinda late from family-type stuff at the aunt's house (where we'd lost to the old people team at Trivia Pursuit, arg!). I'd whipped up a new trailer DVD earlier in the day just in case, so I was ready to rock.

The Blob trailer (1958)
Army of Darkness trailer (1992)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror: Citizen Kang" (1996)

Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV (2000) directed by Lloyd Kaufman
BiL7 mentioned he'd never seen a Troma movie before. I suggested either this one or Redneck Zombies. Based on the title alone, he was leaning towards RZ, but I grabbed Toxie instead. If you're gonna introduce someone to Troma, show 'em the best of the best.

And it is, as far as I'm concerned, the best bad movie ever made so far (high hopes for Poultrygeist). Lloyd is absolutely insane in this movie, trying and succeeding at being as funny, offensive and gooey as humanly possible. Examples: a five minute scene of an old lady having her head run over by a car, then twitching while shitting and pissing herself for an uncomfortably long time. Death by dirty diaper. A super hero whose power is to ejaculate large quantities. A main character is a proud "retard rebel." The only bits I really don't care for are the Sklar brothers newscasts. They break the madcap flow too often and aren't terribly funny. (8/10)

11 October 2008

6WH: Friday, October 10th

Sis and her husband, BiL7, came up from Texas for the weekend. They were informed that in this house, at this time of year, by god Six Weeks of Halloween participation is mandatory. Not that they weren't agreeable. Joining us: my mother. Yep, mom. Watching horror movies with mom. That also meant homemade vegetarian lasagna replaced the traditional pizza and bacon cheddar fries, which my arteries are likely thankful for. After reading off a few dozen horror titles from my collection, we finally picked one to start.

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III trailer (1990)
Werewolves on Wheels trailer (1971)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror: Dial 'Z' for Zombies" (1992)

Martin (1976) directed by George A. Romero
My second favorite vampire flick after Near Dark. One thing I noticed this time around was the role of religion in the film. "There's no real magic," Martin declares repeatedly, demonstrating this by eating the garlic his cousin Cuda has hung in the house and touching a crucifix to his cheek. Cousin Cuda holds the diametrically opposite belief; he's a traditional Catholic and staunch believer in real vampires. When Cuda asks the new, young priest -- played by Romero himself -- to perform an exorcism on Martin, the priests laughs the idea off and Cuda is forced to recruit an old priest for the task. Young versus old, traditionalist versus modernist and believers versus non-believers are themes that run throughout the background of the film.

I don't think Romero is a believer himself ("For me, tribalism and religion are basically the big reasons we’re in trouble. Patriotism, tribalism, and religion.") and I don't think there's any real magic in the world of the film. This makes the ending of the film particularly interesting. In the end, the evil is stopped by the old, traditionalist, believer when Cuda kills Martin by pounding a stake through his heart. Though he did this in the mistaken belief that Martin was a vampire, he was also the only person on the planet to believe, correctly, that Martin was a monster. So too, I think, Romero may be saying: though the religious do good works in the mistaken belief it will bring favor with their deity, that doesn't make it any less of a positive thing. (9/10)

God Told Me To trailer (1976)
Blood Spattered Bride / I Dismember Mama trailer (1974)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror: The Devil and Homer Simpson" (1993)

The Mothman Prophecies (2002) directed by Mark Pellington
For my money, the Mothman is what a "real" monster would be like. It's not human, so its motivations are utterly incomprehensible. To encounter it is to flirt with insanity. You can't stop it with holy water or silver bullets; it's probably not even corporeal. You can barely describe it after seeing it. Utter powerlessness in the face of something you can't hope to understand is truly scary.

This was fun to watch a second time. I had my eye out for both the flash frames of the Mothman that appear periodically and for shots with pairs of red lights (recalling the Mothman's eyes) in them. I wasn't disappointed. Red lights abound and the flashes we get of the Mothman are creepy. I think Pellington's music video background helped him here. He's used to dealing with quick, surreal imagery. (8/10)

Near Dark trailer (1987)
The Shining fake trailer (2005)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror: The Shinning"(1994)

Masters of Horror: "Dance of the Dead" (2005) directed by Tobe Hooper
A post-apocalypse. A wild ride into the night. Zombies. And Bobby Englund hamming it up. I love this episode. (9/10)

The Halloween Jones Soda flavor of the week was Buried Pomegranate, a new flavor introduced this year. I've never eaten a real pomegranate before, so I don't really know if the liquid in this can was an abomination upon nature, or an eerie reproduction. It was perfectly drinkable, though. Not a bad change from your regular cherry/lemon/orange fruit-flavored pops, I suppose. Kinda tastes like, maybe, plum soda or peach soda or something like that. Still, I'm not going to cry if it gets replaced next year.

I was bit surprised: I though the Mothman would freak my sister out the most, but she found Martin more disturbing. I guess any monster -- no matter how bizarre -- can't really compete against "that quiet kid is secretly an insane serial killer" for things to fear in real life. Mom was also not a fan of Martin. It's not really her usual type of movie, fair enough (she thought it was "bloody"). I think picking a follow-up movie starring the (dreamy and her same age) Richard Gere probably made up for that. BiL7, I could tell from the loud laughter, enjoyed The Simpsons clips. I triple-dipped on those this week because I knew he's a big fan of the show. As you can see, I went for the cream of the crop, there, choosing the best shorts for the best three episodes (IMHO, anyway, and saving "The Raven" for October 31st).

Five hours of melting and five people drinking later...

09 October 2008

6WH: Oct 8

Tales from the Crypt: "Maniac at Large" (1992) directed by John Frankenheimer
I think the only Frankenheimer movie I've seen is Seconds, which is pretty much a polished Twilight Zone. Him directing an episode of this newer anthology show isn't too much of a stretch beyond that. This one is more subdued that most Crypt episodes. Frankenheimer enjoys playing around with audience expectations, constantly throwing in red herrings as to who the titular maniac is. The key to a horror whodunit: give every character a scene in which they do something just a little odd or threatening. This is all you need to have the audience throw their suspicions upon that character (until the next character does something weird). Of course, the only way for the storytellers to win at this game is to ultimately have the maniac be the most normal person -- say like the protagonist we've followed throughout the episode. (7/10)

08 October 2008

6WH: Oct 7

The Hamiltons (2006) directed by Mitchell Altieri & Phil Flores
The movie had me guessing for quite a while. At first, I assumed it was a suburban version of Texas Chain Saw. That probably would've been worse than what it turned out to be. I was imaging chunks of flesh surgically removed from the girls the family held captive -- the fat around the stomach, a cheek, an arm -- as they were kept alive as long as possible to keep them fresh. It's nothing nearly as horrible as that... just some blood donations. This isn't a Saw movie. It's more of an exploration of vampire puberty, which is something I don't think I've really see before. Cory Knauf did an excellent job in the role off the teen vampire desperately trying to deny his nature. I've known kids like him (minus the blood-drinker). The rest of the cast isn't quite as believable as he, unfortunately It's no Martin, but it's a good stab at trying something newish in a vampire flick. (6/10)

07 October 2008

6WH: Oct 6

By far, the DVDs that have sat unwatched in my collection for the longest time are the Puppet Master movies. I bought the box set of all 7 movies way back in 1999. In fact, they were among my very first DVD purchases ever after buying a PS2 (the Elm Street box set was the first). Back then, I was closer to high school -- when I enjoyed renting these from the video store on VHS -- than I am now to 1999. What will I think of these movies all this time later? Nine years is long enough. I've gotta watch 'em and see whether they can stay in the collection, or if they belong on ebay.

Puppet Master (1989) directed by David Schmoeller
The ship that launched a thousand killer doll flicks from Full Moon. Actually, that honor arguably belongs to Dolls. Living toy stories are endlessly fascinating. They plug directly into dreams and/or nightmares from childhood. This one ain't bad. The puppets are unquely designed and the special F/X animating them are pretty good. The psychic couple who get off on the pschyo-sexual leftovers in elevators, hotel beds, etc. are fun to watch. Richard Band's score is nearly as good as his one for Re-Animator.

I love how the beefy, psychic, Yale professor protagonist Alex is utterly useless throughout the movie. He has dreams that predict everyone dying, but does nothing to prevent the deaths. He establishes himself as the widow Megan's protector, but the resurrected husband Neil handily beats the hell out of him. It takes the puppets to defeat the bad guy while Alex bleeds from his wounds. Ostensibly the main character, you could cut him completely out of the film and it would be essentially the same movie. That's gotta be rare in cinema history. (6/10)

06 October 2008

6WH: Oct 5

Nude for Satan (1974) directed by Luigi Batzella
I'll admit it: the title tricked me. How couldn't it? As soon as I was aware of a movie called Nude for Satan, it was placed immediately into my Netflix queue. I'd also seen The Devil's Wedding Night by the same director (courtesy of Elvira), which was filled with enough trippiness and lesbianism to keep me entertained. This one, though... yeesh. A test of how well I can take boredom was mostly what it was. Batzella dove completely off the arthouse deep end here. Although there is plenty of nudity, as the title promises, it's in-between scene after scene of people having endless conversations about how confused they are about their situation. Even Satan doesn't do much more than talk. I've never looked at the DVD player's time counter so often. (3/10)

05 October 2008

6WH: Saturday, October 4th

The Blob (1958) directed by Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. & Russell S. Doughten Jr.
Dig that '50s scene, man. Young, rebel teens (like 28-year-old Steve McQueen) -- in-between making out in lover's lane and backwards drag racing -- struggle to convince square adults that an alien glob of goo is eating people. This is one of the few horror movies from the 1950s that I actually like (my favorite being Invasion of the Body Snatchers). The film pops in dreamy Technicolor -- Criterion's transfer on their DVD is excellent -- with the stereotypical '50s pallet of pinks and blue-greens tickling the eyeballs. It features a truly original alien monster: no need for aliens who happen to look like humans and speak English here. The special effects are great for the era, particularly when the blob is dog-sized. Its movements at that size look quite bizarre. The concept is actually pretty dark for the time: there's a thing rolling around Smalltown, USA digesting people. Off-screen, it consumes an entire bar filled with a Friday night crowd. This movie has to have one of the highest body counts for this decade. I dug it, man. Happy 50th, Mr. Blob. (7/10)

Beware! The Blob (1972) directed by Larry Hagman
Dig that '70s scene, man. The rebel drag racers are replaced with really annoying hippies and Steven McQueen is replaced by the weenie who played Charlie X in the Star Trek episode of the same name in this wacked-out sequel. A man brings home a frozen sample of the blob he found while working on a pipeline in the arctic. It gets out, eats a cute kitten and hilarity ensues. There's quite a bit of fun to be had with this one. For example, the blob attacks a fat, bald Turkish guy taking a bubblebath, who proceeds to flee down the street buck nude, gets picked up by the police, and insists on making his one phone call at the station still in his birthday suit. Or, there's Dick Van Patten as the exasperated, no-nonsense scoutmaster who is tormented by scouts with clackers. Or, Burgess Meredith as a hippie-hating hobo sharing a drink with the director. Definitely a good-bad movie (though I imagine serious fans of the original must froth at the mouth at its very mention). (6/10)

After my Blob-a-thon, the missus and C joined me. T, from week 1, ain't ever coming back. Not a guy who understands horror, I'm afraid.

Masters of Horror: "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" trailer (2005)
Martin trailer (1977)
Johnny Bravo: "Frankenbravo" (2000)

Tales from the Crypt: "King of the Road" (1992) directed by Tom Holland
Another Two-Fisted Tales story without a hint of horror. Brad Pitt stars as an arrogant drag racer who tattoos the names of the people he defeats on his arm. He discovers a local police officer used to be a famous dragger in the '50s until he killed someone in a wreck. By seducing the officer's daughter, he blackmails him into dragging one more time. Long-story short: the boomer defeats the punk '90s kid. This, I'm sure, in no way made the director, writers and producers feel better about aging. I'm glad this is the last of the Two-Fisted Tales in Crypt: gimme some horror. (5/10)

The Thing (1982) directed by John Carpenter
My wife loves this movie. Year-round, she's always suggesting it as something to watch. My response is usually "I don't want to watch it until there's snow on the ground." I like watching The Thing in the winter; it just makes the movie more effective when I, like the characters, could freeze to death if I got stuck outside. A few days ago, though, I got the blu-ray version in the mail. C and I both wanted to see this flick in HD, so I asked the missus: "what's that one movie that you always want to watch and I say we can't until something happens?" She knew right away what it was. Needless to say, she was thrilled with the pick.

Rant: despite what people always say, The Thing is not a remake. Sure, there was a movie called The Thing from Another World made in 1951, but it wasn't the original source of this story. That's a novella called Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell. Calling Carpenter's movie a remake is like saying Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings is a remake of the Bakshi cartoon, or The Passion of the Christ is a remake of The Last Temptation of Christ.

The Thing is my favorite movie of all time at the moment. It's exactly my kind of movie. (10/10)

Satan's Sadists trailer (1969)
Satan's Cheerleaders trailer (1977)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror: Clown without Pity" (1992)

The Blob (1988) directed by Chuck Russell
Now this is a remake. And this is exactly how to do a remake: wait a respectful three decades, create a similar but original story that touches on the big moments from the original (like the movie theater sequence) and amp the puppy up to match the times. This is the type of blob movie I really wanted. None of that demure cutting away once of the blob attacks… let's see what really happens to people inside of it. It ain't pretty. In fact, it's some of the nicest gore effects you'll fine in the '80s. People dissolved in half, people melted down to ooze-covered skeletons, people exploding from inside with the blob. Nice work. Gotta love the '80s Cold War element, too. "This'll put U.S. defense years ahead of the Russians." This time, the blob is a mutated bacteria created by the U.S. government, meant for the Ruskies. An oft-overlook gem of an '80s horror movie. (8/10)

The Halloween Jones Soda flavor of the week was Lemon Drop Dead, the last of the repeats from prior years. It still tastes like carbonated, powder lemon drink. It's fine, I guess. Fake lemonade isn't bad, though the enormous amount of citric acid in it is kind of heart-burny.

Lil K was not at all posed with Halloween stuff for this photo.

03 October 2008

6WH: Oct 3

Tales from the Crypt: "Showdown" (1992) directed by Richard Donner
A western adapted from Two-Fisted Tales, instead of one of the EC horror books. It does have ghosts in it, so I suppose it can count. It's essentially a bunch of western cliches -- pursued by a posse in the desert, the gunfight, the poker game -- with the evil gunman meeting all of his victims at the end. He also refuses to accept his own death in the gunfight and is popped into the future -- when the town is now a tourist attaction -- for no reason I can see before popping back into his own time to hang out with his victims like they were old friends. Not much sense here, but some good western fun that was a nice change of pace for the show. (6/10)

02 October 2008

6WH: Oct 2

I'm going to try to catch up on all of these After Dark Horrorfest films this October, provided Netflix can get 'em here fast enough.

The Abandoned (2006) directed by Nacho Cerdà
Spaniards making a film about Russians in the style of Japanese horror. A woman born in Russia and adopted by Americans travels to her birthplace in search of information on her parents. She discovers that her mother was murdered shortly after her birth and she's inherited the family farm. Off to the farm she goes, where she discovers the twin brother she never knew she had and some ghostly goings-on.

I'm glad I watched this with my wife. Through her, I could see how expertly constructed the suspense sequences in the middle of the film were. Such things, sadly, don't have an affect on me -- I find them slightly boring -- but the missus was hiding her eyes and threatening to leave the room. Watching a horror movie that has that effect on people is fun. Outside of that, the beginning of the movie is a very slow build and the end is the type of Japanese-style ghost story stuff I don't really care for. Still, the movie is shot with such style that I can't help but admire it. (7/10)

01 October 2008

6WH: Oct 1

Phantasm: Introduction by Angus Scrimm (1995)

Phantasm (commentary by Don Coscarelli, A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury and Angus Scrimm) (1995)
This is an ideal commentary track. It features four old friends who talk about a movie and moviemaking experience they all love. There are no quiet stretches worth mentioning. The discussion is mostly behind-the-scenes info and stories about the scene they're all watching. This is how a commentary should be done. (8/10)

Phantasm: "Deleted Scenes 1-6" (1978)
Phantasm Australian TV Promo
1979 Phantasm Interview (1979)
Phantasm: Behind-the-Scenes (1995)

Tales from the Crypt: "The New Arrival" (1992) directed by Peter Medak
The dwarf from Poltergeist and Satan from Time Bandits in a creepy house with a weird kid running around wearing a mask. Sounds great, but it's actually a pretty low-key episode. Not something that'll stick in my mind. (6/10)

1000: the Phantasm commentary was the thousandth movie I've watched since I started keeping track (19 Dec 2003). By movie, I mean any film >= 60 minutes (or any Masters of Horror episode). That breaks down to:

1 movie every 1.7 days
4 movies per week
17 movies per month
209 movies per year

65% were from 1980-2008
20% were Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes
14% were watched in October
3% were John Carpenter movies
1% were watched at the theater

Most-watched movie was Halloween (1978) at 4 times.
Oldest movie was The Golem: How He Came Into the World from 1920.
Newest movie was The Dark Knight from 2008.
Average year was 1982
Average rating was 6.8

Guest OLR: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Like Easy Rider, except all of the hippies are cannibals. (7/10)

d. Tobe Hooper