Phantasm (1978) directed by Don Coscarelli
Like a good free verse poem. The film wanders wherever it wants -- fortune tellers, annoying kid brothers, finger flies, auto repair, evil dwarves, impromptu acoustical guitar performances, a dimensional spacegate -- but always returns to dreams and death. Characters can fall asleep in one reality and wake up in another. Characters alive in one reality are dead in the other. Coscarelli does this all without explanation, letting the story flow were it may in the manner of a dream. He knows what the rules of conventional storytelling are -- see Jim the Worlds Greatest -- and knows that throwing those rules out the window would be the coolest way of exploring a story about a kid dealing with his brother's death / an extra-dimensional entity stealing our dead to use as slaves.
It's all kind of like Bill Shakespeare says: "To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: aye, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come." (9/10)
30 September 2008
29 September 2008
Tales from the Crypt: "Beauty Rest" (1992) directed by Stephen Hopkins
"I've often thought that there should be beauty contests for the insides of bodies." Sure, but how do you get something like that going? In this Crypt episode, the auditorium for the Miss Autopsy 1992 contest was packed. How do find that many like-minded "inner beauty" fans? You need people that not only are interested in seeing a flayed woman on stage but are willing to get duded up in a tuxedo for the event. Maybe some clever fliers posted in rich neighborhoods? (6/10)
Tales from the Crypt: "What's Cookin'" (1992) directed by Gilbert Adler
Christopher Reeve is the owner of a restaurant the only serves squid (he wants to be the Colonel Sanders of cephalopods). Superman selling squid? I love it already. On the verge of eviction, a sneaky hired hand in Reeve's restaurant has him unknowingly serve steaks made of people. The people meat is an enormous hit, business booms and the door opens for plenty of scenes of Reeve trying to hide the corpses in the freezer from his wife. A lot of fun with an ending I actually didn't expect. (7/10)
27 September 2008
Chef Gregory was supposed to swing by for this second week of Halloween -- a full year after his last trip down here -- but illness had him cancel at the last minute. With just me and the missus, we replaced the traditional pizza and bacon cheddar fries with a slightly healthier pizza and salad and dove into a random selection of watchin'.
Bubba Ho-Tep trailer (2003)
Maximum Overdrive trailer (1986)
30 Days of Night (2007) directed by David Slade
The premise is excellent: why don't vampires winter in the arctic when the sun never rises? The vampires could move into town and walk around like normal folk, all the while people would start to mysteriously disappear. Great plan! Such high hopes probably made the movie even more disappointing than it should've been. I hate -- absolutely hate -- the vampires in this flick. They're one step away from mere animals. They're the type of vampires that seem to spend most of their free time hissing and making noises like Jurassic Park dinosaurs. They like to pose dramatically in the street while making these noises, showing off their ridiculous, teeny-tiny yellow teeth. Worst of all, they are incredibly stupid.
Things started out promising. The vamps sent a human slave into town on the last day of daylight to sabotage communications and transportation. Miles and miles from the next town, the residents would be nicely confined for the month-long night. It's a guaranteed 30-day meal ticket for the vamps. So, what do they do? They go freakin' apeshit on day 1 and kill most of the people in town. This sends the few remaining people into hiding and the vamps are forced to spend the rest of the month trying to lure them out so they can eat. Nice going. Meanwhile, the humans make their obligatory noble sacrifices, stupid decisions and "when this is over" speeches, all the while seemingly unaffected by the -10 to -30 temperatures outside. Bah. I'm very glad I never blind-bought the graphic novel. (5/10)
New Nightmare trailer (2004)
High Tension trailer (2003)
Looney Tunes: "A-Haunting We Will Go" (1966)
Tales from the Crypt: "Seance" (1992) directed by Gary Fleder
Scammers try to scam a guy out of money, accidentally kill him, and he kills them back as a ghost. The best part of the show was John Kassir doing the Crypt Keeper's voice with a '40s film noir accent layered on top. Weird. (6/10)
Prince of Darkness trailer (1987)
Willard trailer (2003)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror: Terror at 5½ Feet" (1993)
The Twilight Zone: "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (1963) directed by Richard Donner
I had to pop this one in after watching The Simpsons version. Lots of good stuff in this episode. Bill Shatner trying to contain his freak-out over the gremlin. Bill Shatner realizing that what he's telling his wife is making her think he's nutso. Bill Shatner smoothly dropping his pack of smokes so he can steal the policeman's gun. Bill Shatner agonizing over whether to open the emergency door and shoot the gremlin. Bill Shatner in a straight jacket. Bill Shatner. (7/10)
The Old Dark House (1932) directed by James Whale
Camp in the disguise of a traditional horror movie, not at all unlike Bride of Frankenstein. In this one, a bad storm forces some travelers to take shelter in a nearby house. The house is inhabited by a queer old man (pun intended), his grumpy sister and their dumb butler Morgan (played by Boris Karloff). It's really hard to describe this movie. It's a horror movie, but there's nothing supernatural in it at all. It's just a spooky house, a rainy night, and group of kooky characters. Probably, it works so well due to the skills of the actors involved. They have a ball, but never play things too broadly to wake you out of the reality of the movie. Very fun (7/10)
The Halloween Jones Soda flavor of the week was Monster Mojito. I hate this flavor every year, so I drank it early in the season to get it out of the way. Yep, same taste as always: a fruity alcoholic mixer.
Also not very good: Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale. The missus bought it in an appreciated attempt to get something appropriate for the season. But, urg, beer made with pumpkin flavoring is just not very tasty. It tastes like a bad ale with some vegetables mixed into it. I downed two, anyway.
26 September 2008
The Mist (2007) directed by Frank Darabont
A better Silent Hill movie than Silent Hill. There are some great, classic horror movie moments in this film. One of my favorites is early on when they decide to open the loading dock gate so that the kid can scamper out and unclog the generator exhaust. Tentacles poke in and grab the kid. People are freaking out. There's a really great couple of shots of Otis screaming. Right behind him, nicely outlined in a red case, is a fire ax. It's perfectly designed for that stereotypical horror movie audience reaction: the shout at the screen. "Get the ax! The ax, idiot!"
I'm not thrilled that they chose to explain the creatures in the mist as the result of a military experiment gone wrong. It's too much of a Half Life rip-off and these things are always scarier when left unexplained (as in the story). I have a feeling they decided on the new ending they wanted and that necessitated the military angle. I'm not sure what I think of the new ending. It is in the tradition of Stephen King -- like Thinner -- so it doesn't feel like too much of a cheat. Still, I prefer to think of the mist covering the country and a small group of survivors disappearing into the unknown. In the end, "The Mist" was always about how a group of random people stuck in a bad situation will react and interact. I think the film, including the tacked-on ending, shows that well. (8/10)
22 September 2008
Tales from the Crypt: "This'll Kill Ya" (1992) directed by Robert Longo
If you find yourself in a tale from the crypt, never, ever fool anyone about anything. If it's a surprise party, someone will end up dead. If you're going to treat your wife by coming home from work early, someone will end up dead. And, especially, if you trick an arrogant coworker into thinking you've poisoned him to teach him a lesson, you're gonna end up dead and being carried into the police station by your ankle. (6/10)
Tales from the Crypt: "On a Deadman's Chest" (1992) directed by William Friedkin
The director of The Exorcist takes a stab at a Crypt, but I think he was just collecting a paycheck. There's no real evidence of that prior horror effort here (outside of a stylized poster hanging on a wall of it). The lead singer in a rock band gets taken to a Haitian tattoo artist (played by Heavy D!) who gives him a custom tattoo that looks a lot like his band's Yoko, played by Tia Carrere. He eventually looses it, kills the Yoko and cuts the tattoo off of his own chest. Nothing too special, except for when the lead singer's girlfriend's snake tattoo sticks it tongue out at him, looking like nothing else but a weird third nipple. (6/10)
21 September 2008
The Call of Cthulhu (2005) directed by Andrew Leman
What if "The Call of Cthulhu" was adapted for film right after Lovecraft finished the story in 1926? It would look damned close to this, I'm sure. Made in the style of a silent movie, the only bits that give the movie away as being from 2005 are the superior image quality (computer generated dust and scratches can't mask the better lenses and film stocks we have now) and the too-good-for-'26 stop motion. The sets are dead-on silent movie, with a stage play-looking boat and expressionistic city of R'lyeh, as is the exaggerated acting. It's an impressive technical achievement.
Story-wise, it's pretty much an exact adaption of the story, covering the plague of strange dreams, the story of the backwoods cult, and the sea encounter with Cthulhu itself. Due to this, it's a bit slow to get going. The beginning of the story is basically a man reading newspaper clippings and interviewing people. The adventure in the Pacific, however, makes for a very cinematic finale. (7/10)
I also read Phantasm: Overminds #1, a comic published by Xmachina back in 2002. It was supposed to be a four-part mini-series, but only this issue came out due to legal issues, I believe. I finally stumbled on a copy being sold at the official Phantasm website.
Taking the lead from the surrealistic first and fourth movies, it dives into the deep end of weirdness. It's 2047 and Mike has been in a dream coma for 68 years, except he looks like the Mike from part two. Everything that happened in the movies really happening in Mike's dreams. Except that Rocky from part three is for-real and also stuck in a dream coma. And they're the only two people to ever wake up from it. And a dream coma plague has swept the planet and the scientist caring for Mike thinks he's the key to solving the problem. Or maybe not. Maybe the scientist is the Tall Man and he's messing with Mike again. And Reg died in the car wreck with Jody back in 1979. Except, he's advertised as returning in the second issue.
Maybe not where I'd like to see the series go, but it is some trippy fun.
On this first day of Halloween, C convinced T to come over and join in the fun for the first time. T is a self-professed not-fan of horror movies. He'll admit to seeing parts of the Elm Street flicks, but pretty much avoids the genre completely. It's always a treat to show people good movies they've never seen before. Here was a rare opportunity to lay some quality horror on a virgin brain. What to choose?
Phantasm trailer (1978)
Slumber Party Massacre II trailer (1987)
Looney Tunes: "Hyde and Hare" (1950)
Tales from the Crypt: "None But the Lonely Heart" (1992) directed by Tom Hanks
Horror by Tom Hanks? That's what the season 4 opener of Crypt brings us. It's pretty much a stereotypical Crypt tale. A bad man marries rich, older ladies and kills them for the inheritance. Someone blackmails the bad man about his crimes and he freaks out. The bad man is killed by the corpses of the dead wives. Insert quip by the Cryptkeeper. Nothing particularly special -- outside of watching Tom Hanks get shoved into a TV -- but satisfying, nevertheless. (6/10)
Evil Dead II (1987) directed by Sam Raimi
Raimi at his manic, creative best. Check out the camera work in this one. Before Fincher was cheating by using a computer to fly cameras through impossible shots, Raimi was doing it the old fashioned way: throwing the camera through doors and bouncing it on bungie cords.
C and I thought this would be a good example of fun horror for T to take in. It's gory but not grotesque. It's got one of the best everyman protagonists in film history. It moves along at a brisk pace and you're never sure what the deadites are going to do to Ash next. The sounds the evil hand makes are hilarious. I think I heard T chuckle a few times. (9/10)
The Wicker Man trailer (1973)
Rubber Johnny trailer (2005)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror: Bart Simpson's Dracula" (1993)
Near Dark (1987) directed by Kathryn Bigelow
C and I chose this one after getting to talking about vampires (due to the Simpsons short we'd just watched). I suggested it as it's my favorite vampire movie of all time, and I thought we should switch gears into a more serious film than ED2.
"I'm afraid" is Mae's last line in the movie, after she wakes up in Caleb's barn cured of vampirism. Caleb makes the mistake of thinking she's afraid of the sun, which Mae hasn't see for four years. Yes, that's a part of it. She's also afraid of the future. She's just spent four years killing people with impunity every night of her life. How do you go back to living like a normal person after that?
This is one reason I like the movie so much. Caleb steadfastly refuses to compromise his morality during his time as a vampire. No matter how hungry or sick he got, he could not kill another person. This is not what you normally see in a vampire movie. As an audience, I think, we tend to want to live vicariously through the vampires onscreen. We admire their ability to do whatever they want, whenever they want (provided it's after sundown). But, really, if you were infected with a disease that meant you needed to eat people every night to stay alive... would you really? I don't think it would be quite that easy. (9/10)
Jacob's Ladder trailer (1990)
The Return of the Living Dead TV spot (1995)
Michael Jackson: "Thriller" (1983)
In the end, T was pretty nonplussed about the movies. We really couldn't get much out of him one way or the other as to what he thought, which I took to mean that he still a not-fan. Well, we tried. We threw some of the best at him and it didn't make an impression. Will he return? We shall see in future weeks!
The Halloween Jones Soda flavor of the week was Candy Corn. They've changed the cans this year: gone are the jack-o-lanterns of the last three years, replaced by horror movie monsters. Candy Corn is a werewolf, kinda looking like Michael J. Fox. Though the outside is different, the contents are exactly the same: Candy Corn tastes just as it did last year. It's Candy Cornish. Drinkable, but not something you're gonna order with a burger and fries.
20 September 2008
- Week 1 | 20 Sep / 21 Sep / 22 Sep / 23 Sep / 24 Sep / 25 Sep / 26 Sep
- Week 2 | 27 Sep / 28 Sep / 29 Sep / 30 Sep / 1 Oct / 2 Oct / 3 Oct
- Week 3 | 4 Oct / 5 Oct / 6 Oct / 7 Oct / 8 Oct / 9 Oct / 10 Oct
- Week 4 | 11 Oct / 12 Oct / 13 Oct / 14 Oct / 15 Oct / 16 Oct / 17 Oct
- Week 5 | 18 Oct / 19 Oct / 20 Oct / 21 Oct / 22 Oct / 23 Oct / 24 Oct
- Week 6 | 25 Oct / 26 Oct / 27 Oct / 28 Oct / 29 Oct / 30 Oct / 31 Oct
Halloween is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday. Christmas? No, all of that obligatory consumerism has turned it into a chore. Thanksgiving? Nah, the post-gluttony is dampened by the family-insisted sports-games on the TV. St. Paddy's? Sure, drinking green beer can be fun, but how many years in a row can I watch Leprechaun and Darby O'Gill? No sir, Halloween is it. When else can you impersonate another person all day and not be arrested? On what other day would it be socially acceptable to decorate your yard with imitation corpses? Only during Halloween do hollow, burning fruit look good on your porch. Most of all, Halloween somehow makes most everyone in the country a fan of my favorite genre. One day just isn't enough for this type of fun; I make it six weeks.
The plan is to fill these 42 days with a variety of fall activity. I've gotta really enjoy the season after last year's poor showing. The cornerstone of every week is the beer-, pizza- and candy-fueled weekend horror movie watching with friends. Outside of that, I'm looking forward to picking up the little one's very first costume, making a trip or two to the local cider mill, the smell of the leaves collecting on the ground and carving up a pumpkin.
And, as always, I will watch the movie Halloween on October 31st. This year marks the 10th anniversary of this tradition. Somewhat appropriately, I'm retiring my beloved Anchor Bay Limited Edition -- one of the first DVDs I ever bought back in 1999 -- and I will be watching Anchor Bay's Blu-ray version instead. Hi-def P.J. Soles, here I come!
18 September 2008
17 September 2008
15 September 2008
09 September 2008
07 September 2008
06 September 2008
04 September 2008
03 September 2008
Every time Swamp Thing appears onscreen, the music goes DA DA-DA-DAH and then he fights this leech monster and then he shares a psychedelic fruit picked from his groin with Heather Locklear and it's all awesome. (7/10)
d. Jim Wynorski