Hostel: Part II (2007) directed by Eli Roth
It started out as a promising follow-up to the original. The lone survivor of the first film is killed of at the beginning of this one, as is proper in horror sequels. Instead of three male protagonists, we follow three females traveling to Slovakia. Since we already know the secret from the first film, we also follow two torturers from America as well. One of them seems as though he's not really into the idea of torturing and killing someone and is just going along with his psychotic friend. Good ideas for mixing things up.
But, I think Roth wussed out on this one. Instead of ratcheting up the horror, which is what a good horror sequel should do, I think the fact that his protagonists were female this time held him back. He might've been right. Even as it is, he was still accused of misogyny. Still, that doesn't excuse the extreme ridiculousness of Beth's escape from the torturers. She essentially turns into a super hero at the end of the movie, over-powering her captor, torturing him, and buying her way to freedom with her Bruce Wayne-ish inheritance. Worst, she paid no price at all; Paxton from part 1 had to give half of his hand in order to escape. Bah. (5/10)
30 September 2009
29 September 2009
Pit and the Pendulum (1961) directed by Roger Corman
Knowing in-laws would be using my TV room as a bedroom later in the night, I watched this film on Hulu during the day. I was impressed that the movie was in its proper aspect ratio. Nice to see 2.35:1 films aren't being butchered for the "fill-my-screen" morons, even on a streaming service.
This is definitely one of Corman's best films, up there with Little Shop and X. Likely, the solid script from genre god Richard Matheson helped, but Corman's got himself some nice sets, great performances and stylized flashback scenes in here as well. It's a tale of adultery and revenge, but told in such a manner to keep your guessing until near the end.
It's interesting to see differing interpretations of classic stories. I'm a long-time fan of Stuart Gordon's adaption (called The Inquisitor on the title screen). Corman's film is more distant from the original story, which took place during the Spanish Inquisition. It also lacks -- perhaps the second-most memorable part of the story after the titular device -- the rats that free the man trapped under the pendulum. Gordon's film had both of these elements, though both have to make up a whole lot of other stuff in order to fill an hour and a half. The original story is essentially one man's experience in a dark room with a sharp blade. Strangely, the torture of women figures into both films. A reflection on the horror genre in general? (7/10)
28 September 2009
Lake Dead (2007) directed by George Bessudo
This is one of those movies in which it quickly becomes apparent you're about to lose ninety minutes of your life for no good reason. The protagonists are soap opera-pretty frat boys and sorority girls; just the kind of douchebags you hated in college. The antagonists are inbred (literally) rednecks ripped from every other horror movie ever made. I was hoping everyone might die by the end, perhaps in a thermonuclear explosion. Unluckily for me, they insisted on chasing each other around the same three buildings over and over again until the bad guys were taken care of. (4/10)
27 September 2009
Week 2 begins:
Tales from the Darkside: "The New Man" (1984) directed by Frank DePalma
The premise is interesting: a boy goes to his father's workplace and the father doesn't recognize him at all. The man's a former alcoholic, so his family blames that for him not recognizing the boy, though he hasn't had a drink in years. This leads to the man's divorce and the loss of his job. The boy then shows up at the same workplace, claiming to be the son of a different ex-alcoholic. I suppose he's a sort of demon that really hates ex-alcoholics for no apparent reason? The story didn't make too much sense. Creepy smile by the kid in the freeze frame at the end, though. (6/10)
Session 9 (2001) directed by Brad Anderson
I'm glad someone was able to film a movie at Danvers State Hospital. This was probably the creepiest place on the planet, until much of it was torn down a few years ago. We have a similar institution in my home state, which I was lucky enough to be able to walk around a little and film. It's hard to see how such an intense building design wouldn't make the patients even crazier.
The movie, unfortunately, did nothing for me. I had no emotional reaction to the goings on in the film. I really wanted to like it, just for the setting alone. Alas, the film is very slow and spends quite a bit of time with the men simply working on their job. I began to find myself absurdly worried that the men weren't working fast enough to get their bonus, rather than feeling any tension from how the building was affecting the men's minds.
In the end, it turns out one of the men is insane. Everything in the movie has a human explanation. Would I have liked the film better if the supernatural had been involved? I'm not sure. I can see the argument for making it a realistic commentary on mental illness. I can see that the building didn't need any ghostly help in being scary by itself. Still, there was something kind of disappointing that it was just a run-of-the-mill crazy guy responsible for the horror. (6/10)
26 September 2009
After twenty years, I finally did it. Dracula has died by my hand at the end of the original Castlevania. I have no idea how anyone ever did this in the era before save states. My controller would've been through a window long before I got to the second-to-last screen in which a flock of huge bats knock you into bottomless pits over and over. As a kid renting the game, I only ever made it to Frankenstein, where I was promptly killed by that damned jumping Igor bastard. I can't imagine the gallons of tears this game must have generated from '80s children who had parents mean enough to buy it for them. As an adult, I had to make a save state after every successful hit on Dracula. Even then, it took me 30-40 minutes of work. Yeash. Well, on to playing Vampire Killer for the MSX2.
The Deaths of Ian Stone (2007) directed by Dario Piana
It started out interesting. Every day Ian Stone is killed by spooky black ghosts, only to be resurrected in a different life immediately afterward. It's kind of the horror version of Groundhog Day. Unfortunately, once the movie has to start explaining the reasons behind all of this, it gets a bit Saturday morning cartoonish. Turns out Ian is actually one of the black ghosts himself. He's actually the most powerful one ever. The other ghosts are killing him in his human form to ensure he doesn't remember that he knows how to permanently kill them, which is supposedly impossible. The ghosts also feed on fear, and are particularly addicted to the fear a human emits before dying. Ian's a friendly ghost, however, and eats the love coming out of his human girlfriend, instead. Ah, the power of love... By the time one of the bad ghosts utters "but it has only just begun" in response to Ian's "it ends here," I'd just about checked out. A disappointing waste of a promising idea. (6/10)
Fear Itself: "Spooked" (2008) directed by Brad Anderson
I like Eric Roberts, and he does a stand-up job in this episode, but everything else wasn't terribly good. There's lot of armchair psychoanalyzing going on, courtesy of a haunted house that makes you see your greatest regret in life. Eric Roberts' character had a tragedy in his childhood and that's why he was an abusive cop, etc. It's bit like an out-of-tune Tales from the Crypt story. It just never works. (5/10)
25 September 2009
Today was the big movie night for Week 1 of Halloween. In addition to C, who's been coming to these weekend moviethons for years, we've now got J taking part in the celebration. J's a real horror nut, so he fits right in. He even brought movies and shorts to throw into my mix. Armed with plenty of beer, a pair of large bowls filled with candy and some delivery pizza, we set out into horrorville:
Trick 'r Treat (2008) trailer
Dagon (2001) trailer
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Terror III: Dial 'Z' for Zombies" (1992)
Fear Itself: "Eater" (2008) directed by Stuart Gordon
Essentially Masters of Horror season 3, Fear Itself aired briefly on NBC before being canceled. Even on semi-uncensored Showtime, Masters of Horror could barely keep up a decent output of horror. I have no idea what Mick Garris was thinking by taking this idea to a freakin' network. As you'd expect, the show is pretty tame. What I did not expect was how ridiculous the commercial breaks make the show feel. They always cut to black with a musical beat, reminding me of crappy cop show.
The episode itself is unremarkable. A local police department has to hold a cannibal overnight before the FBI picks him up. He uses some Cajun voodoo magic to escape and begins killing police officers. It all comes down to the lone surviving female officer to stop him, making the show the typical woman versus monster horror story. Stephen Lee (kindly Ralph from Dolls) was a treat to watch in this as the overweight asshole, and the eater himself is kind of creepy-looking. Other than that, I actually prefer Gordon's Honey, I Shrunk the Kids episode to this as far as TV horror goes. (6/10)
The Funhouse (1981) trailer
Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006) trailer
Merrie Melodies: "Transylvania 6-5000" (1963)
The People Under the Stairs (1991) directed by Wes Craven
C was strangely obsessed with watching this one and J had never seen it, so we popped it in. It's kind of a nostalgic film for me. It came out right when I started watching horror movies. Plus, I'll always like any movie that has a house filled with secret passages in it. This and Nothing but Trouble have the coolest houses in cinema for that. And, as a Twin Peaks nut, it's amusing to see Big Ed and Nadine playing another kooky married couple. Other than that, the film is essentially 90 minutes of a kid playing hide and seek in the house while trying to avoid the murderous owners. "A nice, family comedy," is how I think J described it afterward. (6/10)
Alien (1979) trailer
Werewolves on Wheels (1971) trailer
Ray Parker Jr.: "Ghostbusters" (1984)
Dawn of the Night of the Dead... The Musical (1980)
Slime City (1988) directed by Greg Lamberson
This is one of the films J brought over. Based solely on the title, we popped in as the final film of the night. What a rip! There isn't anything approaching a city of slime in this film. At best, it could be called Slime Apartment, but Slime Dude would be closer. The premise is kind of amusing. After being seduced by his skanky neighbor, Alex catches the strangest VD ever from her. Anytime he gets upset, he starts to turn into slime. The only way to go back to his normal self is the kill! There's some other stuff in there about black magic, possession and green yogurt (?), but it ain't real important. Anyone watching the movie is in it for the slime. Unfortunately, things don't get really slimy until Alex begins to go to pieces during the climax. We get some Troma-style gooeyness right at the end with some fun special F/X. It's not enough to make up for the prior hour of bad acting, editing and directing, though. (6/10)
That was it for Week 1's big weekend. All had a good time gorging on horror, beer candy and pizza. Five weekends left!
Pumpkins Help Us See the Candy Bowls
24 September 2009
Hostel (2005) directed by Eli Roth
A film not meant to be taken seriously. I wasn't expecting that. It's kind of a carnival funhouse version of a torture movie; everything is exaggerated and broad. I can see how it would've been a shocking flick for mainstream American audiences, though. Someone who's never seen a Miike film might consider this picture disturbing (nice cameo by the man himself, by the way). I hate to keep mentioning it, but Borderland was like the serious, more effective version of this flick.
What the hell was up with the score? The movie had a huge, Hollywood blockbuster orchestral score backing it. It sounded completely out of place, kind of like if John Williams had done the music for Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I found it distracting, especially during Paxton's escape. It made him sound like Indiana Jones running from a boulder.
I've got much respect for KNB, but, man, the makeup for the Japanese girl's burned face / pulled out eyeball was just awful. And why did it leak yellow pus when Paxton cut the dangling eyeball off? That doesn't even make anatomical sense, unless she was a deadite?
I thought the film had some great characters in it. I was super-bummed when Icelandic "King of Swing" Oli died so early. Rick Hoffman playing the super-psyched American businessman was hilarious. The Dutch businessman was appropriately creepy.
As an aside, I was kind of hoping Paxton's severed fingers would be becoming a running gag during the last part of the movie. It kind of looked like it was going that way: the cremation guy picks up his fingers from the floor and add them to his box of body parts for burning. This inspires Paxton to kill him with a hammer... unfortunately, he's too late to save his fingers from the fire. In addition to trying to escape the torturers, it might've been amusing if he also had to worry about keeping track of the fingers the whole time. I dunno. I have a black sense of humor sometimes. (7/10)
23 September 2009
Crazy Eights (2006) directed by James K. Jones
The second Horrorfest flick of the season ain't even in the same universe as the first. Told in a tedious J-horror style, this is the tale of six old friends discovering the horrible secret of their past. Unfortunately for the audience, we're already mostly aware of what happened to them as kids. Watching six idiots slowly piece together this mystery is the pretty much the opposite of fun. Granted, the location they find themselves trapped in -- an abandoned hospital of some sort by the look of it -- is quite cool. Watching the gang wander the place aimlessly, piecing together their inexplicably vague memories of their childhoods... not so much. Even as the ghost of their old friend begins to pick them off, things don't really pep up. Someone dies, they wander around the hospital some more, someone else dies, etc. Pepper in some gaping plot holes, bad acting, a complete lack of characters to care about and you've go an awful movie.
Well, it was good to see Dina Meyer outside of Starship Troopers, anyway. (4/10)
22 September 2009
Grace (2009) directed by Paul Solet
There's no denying that there's a seed of a good idea in here. A pregnant woman named Madeline survives a car wreck, though it seems as if her baby has died. She refuses to go to the hospital and decides to carry it to term, anyway. It's stillborn, but miraculously comes back to life. However, the only substance it's interested in drinking is human blood. Obviously, Madeline's going to go all Julia-in-Hellraiser and start luring horny men to their bloody deaths, right? Eh, not really. She starts out as a vegan, which is kind of an obvious joke for this sort of movie, and works her way up to killing flies before accidentally killing a person. By that point, the movie is just about over with.
The movie flirts with some nice story elements. Most of the film is about the conflict between Madeline's maternal instinct and what society says she should do. She carries a dead baby to term, gives birth with a midwife instead of at a hospital, and refuses to take her baby to a doctor because she knows how to take care of her. All of her choices ensure baby Grace's survival, though we're forced to wonder if this is for the best.
Ultimately, it's not enough. The movie is rather slow and fails to build any tension as it reaches its climax. Baby Grace's unique condition is explored a little in the beginning -- she smells badly, her skin and hair come off easily, flies are attracted to her -- but this is dropped in favor of the blood-drinking angle. I would've like to have seen Grace continue to show signs that she was really dead as the movie continued. The ending is unsatisfying in a way that makes me think the director just could think of a better way to stop the story. (6/10)
Tales from the Darkside: "Trick or Treat" (1983) directed by Bob Balaban
The pilot episode to the TV show with the creepiest intro ever. After that intro, you might expect to be into something dark and mind-blowing. Not so much. Staying true to its conception as "Creepshow: The TV Series," this is a pretty standard EC comic-style horror story of comeuppance. An unlikable miser likes to scare the crap out of children on Halloween while promising to erase their parents' debts if they can find his hidden IOU packet. Scrooge-like, he's visited by supernatural forces... but they take him straight to Hell instead of given out second chances. It's a tale that'd be scary for kids -- especially the witch -- but nothing much more than that. (6/10)
21 September 2009
Dawn of the Dead (2004) directed by Zack Snyder
Mrs. K inexplicable hates the Romero zombie movies, so she was loathe to give this one chance until I mentioned it was more like 28 Days Later than anything. That it had the husband from Medium in it didn't hurt, either. I knew she would like it: the fast zombies actually scare her.
Me, I don't particular care for them. Might as well be a living people on PCP, for all the difference it makes. Still, despite the speedy undead and a general distaste for remakes, this flick is entertaining. I guess I'll always be a sucker for a post-apocalypse, especially when it involves hiding out in a mall. It helps that the story doesn't bother to replay the well-loved original beat-for-beat. It just rips off the title and location and runs in a different direction with it. Ving Rhames kicking some zombie ass? Count me in whatever it's called. (8/10)
20 September 2009
With Mrs. K at work, my daughter and I kicked up off the first day of Halloween together. I opened the season by popping in Cartoon Network Halloween: 9 Creepy Cartoon Capers, a compilation DVD I picked up five years ago (three before Lil K was even born). We watched The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: "Billy & Mandy's Jacked-Up Halloween" and Johnny Bravo: "Bravo Dooby-Doo" before I decided it was time to unpack the decorations box. Lil K was happy to help at first; I had her Halloween books, last year's costume and last year's Halloween clothes on top. However, after getting her finger painfully stuck in Grolschenstein's mouth (who knew he bit?), she got a little timid. I discovered this year that there are certain decorations I just can't use. The life-sized Jason Vorhees is out. Anything that makes scary sounds: out. I guess she's either too old or too young for the scary stuff this time around.
After the little one was in bed, Mrs. K and I watched the first movie of season. She wanted 28 Days Later, but I convinced her to watch the first movie from Horrorfest 2007 with me. I probably should have read some reviews first...
Borderland (2007) directed by Zev Berman
"That was brutal!" said Mrs. K as the end credits rolled. It was quite the kick in the guts, I agreed. Three college-age kids drive into a Mexican bordertown for some fun. There they have the bad luck of crossing paths with a cult that practices human sacrifice by way of torture. It sounds relatively clichéd: according to horror movies, thousands of kids die horrible deaths while on roadtrips to rural/non-American places each year.
Somehow, Borderland did it differently. There's a sense of realism about the movie, though perhaps this is partially from the "this is based on a true story" title card at the beginning. It's shot in a really harsh manner. Both the sun and artificial lights seem to give everything a sharp, yellow edge, like a piece of broken glass. The editing is tight, showing just enough of the horror to horrify and only going just a little bit over the line into gross-out territory. The actors who were tortured by the cult did a disturbingly fantastic job of conveying realistic anguish. Also, Marco Bacuzzi really needs to be in more horror movies. Buried in the story are interesting observations on the nature of violence and the effect of belief in the supernatural on a culture.
"Did you like it?" asked my wife. No, I didn't "like" it. I can't imagine buying this to own; I don't see myself ever watching it again. But, I would say it was well-made and worth the disturbing experience. (8/10)
Amazing Stories: "Mummy Daddy" (1985) directed by William Dear
In order to lighten the mood after Borderland, I popped in one of my favorite Amazing Stories episodes. I figured this would be a good one to watch, as my wife is pregnant right now. In it, Harold is playing a mummy for a horror movie being shot on location in the swaps of Louisiana. In the middle of a nighttime shoot, he gets a call that his wife has gone into early labor. Without taking his costume off, he jumps in a car and heads for the hospital. Needless to say, dressed as he is in an area where people really believe in mummies, some hijinx ensue.
This episode is packed with clever writing, callbacks to the old Universal horror movies and plain funny moments. It's been a favorite since I was wee. (9/10)
PS: Universal, you can eat me. I just ordered a bootleg set of season 2 of Amazing Stories, since you've not interested in finishing a tiny two-season show on DVD.
Rituales de Sangre: The True Story Behind the Matamoros Cult Killings (2008)
After the wife went to bed, I popped the Borderland DVD back in to watch this documentary. It covers the real case that the movie was loosely based on. Essentially, it's deputy sheriff George Gavito describing the investigation, interspersed with camcorder footage taken by his department of the crime scene. It was a bit shocking, in that they freely showed footage of the murder victims been dug out of the ground with shovels and a backhoe. The documentary was also focused mainly on the cold reactions of the perpetrators to their crimes. I would've liked to have seen them put these awful events into some context: how it affected the communities, how it affected Spring Break in Texas in the years that followed, if there were any similar cults believed to still exist, etc. (6/10)
Halloweentime is my favorite part of the year. I like it so damned much, I celebrate the season for a full six weeks. It'll be nothing but horror movies, bite-sized candy, apple cider and pumpkin mutilation for me during the next forty-two days. Some of things on the seventh annual 6WH schedule:
I'm going to try to watch at least one horror movie per day this year. I've got around one hundred horror movies front-loaded in the old Netflix queue, giving me plenty to choose from. The long-awaited Trick 'r Treat is on its way from Amazon soon. Friends have suggested watching everything from The People Under the Stairs to Martyrs to Deadgirl. I'm also going to start watching the Horrorfest movies again, despite 2006's crop being a massive disappointment.
Peppered in with the films will be episodes from horror TV shows. We're up to season five of Tales from the Crypt this year. There's a particular Amazing Stories episode I need to watch with the pregnant Mrs. K. We'll probably end up watching more Masters of Horror and The Munsters. New for this year will be Fear Itself, Tales from the Darkside and The Real Ghostbusters (I've been saving the fondly-remembered Halloween episodes for nearly a year now). As always, bits from The Simpsons Halloween episodes will show up every weekend.
Video games will be a part of this year's celebrating. I plan to re-play Eternal Darkness (to me, second only to Silent Hill 2 in the survival horror realm) and play for the first time Resident Evil 4. I think I shall also attempt to finally beat Dracula in the original Castlevania. Save states should make this a snap, right? Right?
I'm also looking forward to picking out a costume for my daughter, making a visit or two to the local cider mill, watching the leaves change color, feeling the cool breeze of autumn on my cheek... Halloween 2009's gonna be great!
19 September 2009
17 September 2009
16 September 2009
15 September 2009
An OK documentary; I sense Ingram was (perhaps understandably) too chicken to interview more than a few local straight folks for their opinions of these bars, opting instead for the easy pickings of Fred Phelps and the AFA. (6/10)
d. Malcolm Ingram