Saturday, October 31, 2009

Your Deepest Fears...

In 2005, director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers) made a rather intense and scary movie called The Descent. It was a huge hit at Sundance and eventually got a distribution deal from Lionsgate, the same studio responsible for Saw and Hostel.

I must admit, much like Blair Witch, The Descent is one of the few Horror movies that actually got to me. With its combination of claustrophobia, monsters and gore, The Descent is also one of the few Horror movies that treats its female characters as real human beings, rather than just victims.

The movie concerns a group of adventurous vacation buddies. While on teh way home from a white water rafting trip, Sarah's husband and daughter are killed in a horrific (and none-too-subtly shot) accident. The following year, the six-friends reunite in a remote region of the Smokey Mountains to go spelunking. Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) has barely recovered and hopes that having her friends around will help. Juno (Natalie Mendoza), the group's bad-ass, has planned the trip, telling her friends they are exploring a well-mapped system. Of course, she also tells them that she's registered their trip with the authorities. Needless to say, both of those are lies, and the six women soon find themselves trapped in an uncharted system after a tunnel collapse. Now, bickering with one another thanks to Juno's stupidity, they must find their way out on their own.

The real problem? They're not alone...

See, there are these blind, bat-like humanoid monsters living in the caves, stalking the girls for food. the "Crawlers" are everywhere and guided by sound and smell, they take the women out, one at a time. I saw this movie with my friend Laura, who I thought was going to rip my arm off at certain points. And I have to admit, this jaded Horror junkie got worked up by The Descent, something very few Horror movies have ever been able to do.

Marshall's follow-up, 2008's post-apocalyptic actioner Doomsday was disappointing, to the say the least. As, I have a feeling, will the The Descent 2, directed by the original's editor, Jon Harris. In it, Sarah returns to the caves with a group of scientists and cops to find out what actually happened to her five companions, something only possible if you only ever saw the American cut of the movie.

Well. that was an intense month of blogging. I guess I can get back to talking about other nonsense, now. I hope you had as much fun as I did. Oh, and just one last thing... if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend director Ti West's take on the Babysitter in Peril movie, The House of the Devil. It's currently available on DVD and On Demand. Not only is it creepy good fun, it also has something rare in modern Horror: characters you actually care about.

Hoping you all had a safe, happy and scary Halloween!

More, anon.

This Is Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Night HE Came Home...

I bet you thought I was waiting until the 31st for this one, didn't ya? Nyah-nyah, fooled you!

Still, how can one have 'Shocktober' without mentioning the movie that's named for the holiday which has become a bizarre and gruesome celebration of all that is bizarre and gruesome. I guarantee that for every Fairy Princess, Philly, Yankee, Barack
and Transformer at your door tomorrow evening, there will be six vampires, 3 zombies, a werewolf, a Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers.

Director John Carpenter and co-writer Deborah Hill wrote and produced the movie that practically started a subgenre with their "Mad Killer On the Loose" horror movie, Halloween. I was 16, but passed for just old enough and went to see the movie all my friends were talking about. I was fine during the movie, but when I had to come home to a darkened house that night... I'll admit that turned on all the lights when I got there.

What is it about this movie that works so well? Practically everything, thank you. First there's Carpenter's and Hill's script: simple and suspenseful, with mostly believable late-70's "teen-speak" dialogue. Then there's the star-making performance of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie. The first official "Final Girl," Laurie not only saves the two children in her charge, she also survives to fight the monster again.

And what a monster! We know his name is Michael, but he's referred to in the credits as "The Shape." His own psychaitrist, Dr. Loomis, has declared him to be 'pure evil' and he wears the mosy anonymous (and consequently infamous) mask he can find. His only desire is to kill and when he does so, it is with the dispassion of a coroner dissecting a corpse; cold, clinical and a bit curious. The Boogeyman, indeed.

As many before me have noted, the actual blood and gore in Halloween is practically non-existant, but the tension Carpenter manages to build is as high as in any Hitchcock thriller. Inferior (and even completely unrelated) sequels and remakes aside, Carpenter's first film still works 31 years later because its about character and suspense, rather than gore and special makeup effects. Classics are categorized as such for a reason, and Halloween certainly meets all of my (and just about everyone else's) criteria. Without it, Jason and Freddy would never have become the icons they did and movies like Saw and Hostel wouldn't even exist.

And you gotta love that Tommy and Lyndsey are watching a movie that Carpenter would re-make to much later acclaim, The Thing. Good times.

A special Samhain terror, anon!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Devil Made Me...

Eek! An invisible evil creature has entered my body and taken it over for malevolent purposes! What ever shall I do?

Demonic possession movies have never, ever been scary to me, simply because I don't believe in superstitious nonsense. You can go crazy or get become very ill and appear to the ignorant and gullible to be possessed, but you aren't. Maybe that's why I think the best possession movies are the funny ones (though not all the funny ones are good).

Possession movies are about the fear of losing control; be it your mind, body or life in general. They're also about laying blame for our negative actions - if I'm possessed by demons, I certainly can't be held responsible for throwing my mom's super-gay director out of my window to his death down an infamous Georgetown stone stairway, now can I? And I suppose we can owe the Possession sub-genre to that infamous stairway, don't we? The Exorcist came out when I was 12 years-old and already a rabid horror fan. I was desperate to see it, but not allowed. People lined up for blocks; people fainted in the aisles; people ran shrieking out of theaters. People couldn't stop talking about what many people still consider to be The Scariest Movie Ever Made. Now, just so you know just how old your Uncle Prospero is, this was in the days before the VCR and movies were periodically re-released to theaters without a "Special Director's Cut Edition You Never Saw Because the Effect Never Looked Right" and when The Exorcist was re-released in 1978, my father finally deemed me old enough and took me to see it. My reaction? Meh. I think what really killed it for me was the completely fake-looking head twist. Dick Smith's makeup was brilliant in turning pretty young Linda Blair into a demonic monster, but the head twist was so obviously fake that it completely took me out of the movie, squarely back into the reality of the impossibility of such a thing. I'm not saying The Exorcist is a bad movie - far from from it - it deserves to be a classic for many reasons. It's just that for me, scary isn't one of them. A state-of-the-art remake from Del Toro or Jackson (or even Raimi) is long overdue.

Director William Friedkin would later be accused of abusing cast members of his adaptation of screenwriter William Peter Blatty's novel. And, as with many a horror movie (Poltergeist), there are stories about a curse and creepy things that happened on set during the movie's filming. Of course, no one who made or makes money off the movie denies these stories, and why should they? The faithful will still believe and the rational will still be entertained. It's a Win-Win, really.

In 1974, a cheap Italian rip-off of The Exorcist was released in the U.S. as Beyond the Door. It stars Juliet Mills ("Nanny and the Professor") as woman not only possessed, but pregnant to boot! I've never seen it, though from what I've seen of it, I don't think I ever need to:

That same year, the Blaxploitation Horror movie Abby took on the Devil for African American believers:

I actually have seen Abby, though it's been a very long time. I don't imagine it was an actually good movie, though.

Director John Boorman returned to Blatty's characters for his gonzo sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic in 1977. Blair, Kitty Winn (Sharon) and Max Von Sydow (Father Merrin) return, while Louise Fletcher, Richard Burton and James Earl Jones join in the fun. Goofy, weird and oh-so-silly (Darth Vader wearing a locust hat?), Boorman's sequel is like spoiled clams after a delicious sorbet - funny to think about, but not so good going down for real:

Now, take the crazy factor of that trailer and multiply it by about 90 minutes, and you will know how truly awful that movie is. I saw in the long-gone Town Theater, even then a crumbling relic, and the scariest part of the movie was a ceiling tile falling down in the row in front of us.

Fast forward a few years to 1981 -- I'm living in the O.C. and my sister tells me about seeing the scariest movie she's ever seen. It's a little indie horror movie that she says scared the crap out of her. So, I take my lonesome self down to the nearest mall theater to see The Evil Dead. And while I find myself annoyed that it is hardly a movie to make me crap my pants (the budget had to have been all of a buck two-fifty), I am struck by the filmmaker's clever and inventive camera work and twisted sense of humor. Sam Rami's story about a group of friends who invade an "abandoned cabin in the woods" and accidentally awaken a bunch of ancient "Candarian Demons" deserves its cult status if only for Raimi's audaciousness as a guerrilla director who didn't know he was inventing an entirely new style of film-making.

Six years later and with quite a bit more money, Raimi's sequel Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn hits theaters and is really more of remake, than a sequel. What it does, however, is ramp up the comedy and exploit handsome, square-jawed star Bruce Campbell's exceptional aptitude for physical comedy. Campbell deserves every accolade that comes his way and his status as a Cult Movie Icon is all thanks to the bloody, slap-stick insanity that is EDII:DbD. Eyeballs fly like a Stooge's cream pies and chainsaw prosthetics deliberately change sides like Igor's hump in Young Frankenstein.

Not too long ago, a mad group of Canadians went and turned Raimi's films (with his blessing) into one of the funniest contemporary musicals, ever. Video from the actual show is hard to come by, but this fan-made video will give you an idea of how funny the show's lyrics are:

Blatty took matters into his own hands in 1990's Exorcist 3, with his 'official' sequel (based on his own novel, "Legion"), directing George C. Scott, Nicol Williamson and Jason Miller in Exorcist III: Legion. An amnesiac (Miller) shows up in an asylum as a hard-boiled cop (Scott) investigates a series of murders in D.C. 'Patient X' bears a strange resemblance to a certain priest who died after performing the exorcism of certain actresses daughter in Georgetown and the cop begins to suspect something less than natural may be at play:

Certainly a better film than Boorman's sequel and a rather faithful adaptation of the novel, Blatty's film still fails to scare me, though I have to admit Blatty is at least a better director than King.

Also in 1990, director Bob Logan went the Zucker Brothers route with his atrocious spoof, Repossessed. Linda Blair plays a housewife who had been possessed as a child and is once agin possessed as an adult. Leslie "I'll Do Anything for a Buck" Neilson is a Catholic priest and Ned Beatty is a televangelist in this craptacular movie that elicits pity more than laughter:

Raimi visited Candaria one last time in 1992's Army of Darkness, a decidedly comedic entry in the Evil Dead series. Campbell's Ash character finally becomes the badass everyone thinks of him as, and Raimi goes nuts with the slap-shtick. Giving Ash the physical, emotional and psychological beating he wouldn't use again until Allison Lohman's Christine in Drag Me to Hell, and adding tons of stop-motion, split-screen and animatronic FX, Army of Darkness ultimately fails simply because it tries too hard. This may be "my boomstick!" but using a line from classic Sci-Fi as an ancient spell is a little too self-referential for me:

PS - Bonus points (good for nothing other than bragging rights) if you can quote the referenced line and it's source.

One of the most recent recent Possession movies I can remember is The Exorcism of Emily Rose, starring Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson and Campbell Scott is a movie that can't decide if it wants to be a Horror movie or a Courtroom Drama. It fails at both:

And last, and practically least, there is this fall's undeserving hit Paranormal Activity, which suffers not only from over-hype, but a boring script and a cheesy ending.

And then there are two versions of the same movie; Exorcist:The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, by two different directors (one of the strangest moves by a studio in a long time):

So, can anyone make a movie about Demonic Possession that can actually scare me? I doubt it. I'm much more afraid of lunatics with razors, machetes, axes and/or guns than I am of invisible beings out to control my body just for shits and giggles. How about you? Do demons, devils and pookas scare you?

Honestly, the only person I actually believe the Devil made do it was Flip Wilson as Geraldine:

More terrors, anon.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


You knew it was coming. In fact, I'm sure a few of you were surprised it hadn't happened already. But now, here it is... my 'Shocktober' Zombie Post!

According to some Caribbean religions' mythologies, a zombie is a person under the spell of a Houngan; alive, though by all outward appearances, dead. Controlled by powerful psychotropics, the zombie was the Houngan's slave, and did his evil bidding. One of the best early zombie movies is the Val Lewton-produced I Walked with a Zombie. Creepy and atmospheric, as are all of Lewton's horror movies of the era, I Walked with a Zombie is still an effective thriller, 70+ years later. A white plantation owner brings a nurse to his Haitian estate to care for his wife, a victim of zombie-ism:

This type of zombie would be explored again in the 80's by director Wes Craven, but we'll talk about that movie, later.

It would be almost 25 years before the Zombie saw any significant change. In fact, the genre had been mostly ignored through the 50's and 60's. Of course, there was the occasional "zombie" flick, like 1964's bizarre The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies:

The "Wart of Horror?" Choo-Choo, indeed!

Then, in 1968, an indie filmmaker from Pittsburgh by the name of George A. Romero changed the world's concept of Zombies forever. Is there anything new to say about this movie? Probably not. And honestly, who cares about the political and sociological messages that pervade the film and speak so well about the times? We just want to see those zombies chowin' down! Romero and co-writer John A. Russo created a Horror sub-genre on a shoe-string and forever cemented themselves into the world's collective psyche:

"They're coming to get you, Barbara!" And don't think I never used that line on my sister.

It would be another 10 years before Romero gave us the sequel Dawn of the Dead, a movie I had to go to alone because my friends were all too scared to go with me. Just sitting in the auditorium at that midnight show gave me a contact high, but the movie was amazing, especially for a 17 year-old Horror fan who was just discovering the joys of graphically cannibalistic corpses:

In 1985, Alien screenwriter co-wrote and directed a comedic take on Romero's vision with Return of the Living Dead, in which a military chemical is responsible for the resurrection of the dead. It is also the film that introduced the phrase that is post's title:

That same year, Romero returned with his third entry, Day of the Dead. In an underground military facility, a mad scientist is attempting to domesticate a zombie named "Bub," under the protection of a military cadre. Of course, things go horribly wrong (Warning: Trailer language NSFW):

The movie's best line? "I hope you choke on 'em!"

The next year, Italian director Lucio Fulci co-opted Romero's footage and made Zombi 2, notable only for the appearance of Mia Farrow's sister, Tisa:

Infamous for it's 'Zombie vs. Shark' scene, Fulci's movie is really pretty awful.

Director Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street) would explore the old-fashioned type of Zombie in 1987's The Serpent and the Rainbow, starring Bill Pullman as a doctor in search of a new anesthesia, only to find himself caught up in political and mystical intrigue in Haiti:

Zombies quickly went global, and in 1992, a young Kiwi director by the name of Peter Jackson put his own stamp on the genre with a little film I've talked about plenty of times, Brain Dead (or as it is known in America, Dead Alive). I won't go into details again, as it has had its own post already this month, but it remains one of my favorites in the genre:

There were plenty of terrific (and terrible) zombie movies after that, but none quite so amusing as Edgar Wright's and Simon Pegg's parody Shaun of the Dead. Pegg is Shaun, a zombie whether he realizes it or not. When the real zombies arrive, Shaun and his mates fight back the only way they can:

I was stage-managing a particularly awful production of Kiss Me, Kate and sneaked away during a dance rehearsal to a matinee of Shaun... One of the best decisions I ever made...

In 2002, director Danny Boyle introduced audiences to the concept of 'fast zombies' with 28 Days Later, a frightening tale of a virus (Rage) released on the public by animal activists. It also introduced audiences to doe-eyed actor Cillian Murphy:

Romero came back with 2005's Land of Dead, a less than successful entry in the series, starring Dennis Hopper. John Leguizamo, Simon Baker, Robert Joy and the daughter of Giallo legend Dario Argento, Asia Argento. Land of the Dead lacked the bite (all puns intended) of Romero's previous films, but further cemented his idea that they (zombies) are us:

Director Zack Snyder (300; Watchmen) remade Dawn of the Dead in 2004, starring Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames, using the "fast zombie" formula quite effectively:

Next, Romero went the Blair Witch route and did a hand-held POV movie in 2008's Diary of the Dead, one of his best since Dawn....

Then there's the brilliant Canadian zombie parody, Fido:

And of course, most recently, we were treated to the hilarious Zombieland:

Where is the Zombie movie headed? Well, if anyone in Hollywood is smart, it will be my movie Army of the Dead. Of course, we all know Hollywood is run my a bunch of pencil-=pushing accountants who wouldn't know a good script if it bit them the ass. But I'm not bitter.

Like it or not, Zombies are here to stay. I just hope they don't eat yours truly...

More terrors, anon.

The Gayest Thing You'll See This Halloween

I had to share this very, very funny video from The Onion. The kids are freakin' hilarious.

How To Find A Masculine Halloween Costume For Your Effeminate Son

I can't decide if my favorite line is "Hello, Travis" or "I'm a big ole bear!"

Thank you, Stephen!

More, anon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why, You Little Devil!

There are plenty of movies about the devil, and almost as many about his long-prophesied progeny, the anti-Christ. Now, I've talked plenty about my own personal beliefs, and frankly, these types of movies have never been able to scare me. That doesn't mean there aren't any well-made and thoroughly enjoyable films about the subject. Far from it.

Tonight I am only going to talk about two films, because IMHO, they are they only two really well-made and enjoyable movies on the subject.

In 1968, Mia Farrow was married to Frank Sinatra, Ruth Gordon was an unstoppable powerhouse; a veteran of stage and screen for many years and a young Polish director was at just beginning a long and successful (if troubled career). The movie, of course, was Rosemary's Baby, Roman Polanski's brilliant adaptation of Ira Levin's novel. And it was a huge sensation. Once again, I say "shame on you" if you haven't seen this movie that deserves more love than I have ever afforded it, despite it being no less mythological than Olympus or Valhalla.

Farrow plays Rosemary Wood, who with her struggling actor of husband, Guy (hyphenate John Cassavettes), moves into the Dakota (though how, even in 1968 they could have afforded it, is beyond me). Guy is up for an important role on Broadway and Rosemary is an optimistic 60's gal who wants it all. She even goes crazy and has her hair cut at Vidal Sassoon (again, on his salary?). Rosemary also has an old friend, Hutch (Planet of the Apes' Maurice Evans) whom she loves like a wise old uncle. He's her trusted confidante, elderly and probably gay. Hutch will be discussed again, momentarily. Then of course, there are the new neighbors, Roman and Minnie Castavet, played respectively by Sidney Blackmer and the great Ruth Gordon in a role which earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (a true rarity for a Horror movie).

Odder things than Rosemary's nun dream start to happen and Guy ends up with the role he wanted after the actor who got it conveniently suffers a debilitating accident. Seems everything is going their way until that terrible night when Rosemary dreams of being raped by a monster and then soon ends up preggers (Warning, clip may be NSFW):

Hutch then suffers a stroke and dies, leaving Rosemary a mysterious book; "All Of
Them Witches." Using Scrabble tile to unscramble the Castavets' anagramed names, the poor young thing figures out that her dear old Fairy Godfather was warning her about her neighbors. As is usually the case in such instances, she learns the truth too late...

Of course, we all know that Guy sold... well... I won't spoil it, but if you don't know, I have to ask what rock you've been living under for the last 40 years?

Of course, Rosemary's Baby is more than just a story about the birth of the anti-Christ. It's about paranoia and conspiracy theories (ripe pickings for the mentalities of Cold-War-Era audiences) and the horror of being betrayed by the ones you love and trust. Really, when she can't trust Charles Grodin or Ralph Bellamy, what's a girl to do?

Eight years later, Screenwriter David Seltzer and director Richard Donner (Superman) would give us Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Billie Whitelaw and Leo McKern in The Omen. And how many times do I need to say it's a dirty shame if you haven't seen it? A billion and four, I'm guessing. Anyway...

Peck is Gregory Thorn, a future US Ambassador and Remick is his wife Katherine, who gives birth to their beautiful son Damien on June 6th, 1976. All is apparently well until Damien's 6th birthday party, when his nanny goes a little nutso and hangs herself, proclaiming "It's all for you, Damien!" Sadly, photographer David Warner is on hand to capture the incident, as well as a picture of crazy priest bothering the Thorns with fanatical warnings. Little Damien freaks out on the way to a church wedding and a bunch of baboons freak out when Mom takes little D to a drive-thru safari. The fanatical priest is killed when a lighting rod impales him in a churchyard and the photographer realizes his camera captured the priest's and nanny's deaths before they happened, and soon sees his imminent death in a picture of himself. after convincing Peck to visit a crazy old archaeologist (McKern, in an uncredited), Warner's character meets his predicted fate:

I swear, I almost lost my 15-year-old mind. Of course, a few years later I would be losing my mind over Tom Savini's FX in Dawn of the Dead, but that's another post for later this week.

Of course, this is after Peck and Warner battle evil rottweilers, but before battles Mrs. Baylock (Whitelaw), the exceptionally Satanic new nanny:

And then Damien ends up almost killing Mom (those poor fish!) and Mrs. Baylock finishes the job. Dad comes home with a special set of knives and the damned coppers burst in just in time to ruin everything. And sure, an original plot; terrific actors and a director who knows what he's doing can make or break any movie, but it is Jerry Goldsmith's Oscar-winning and iconic score that sealed the deal for this Movie Score freak:

The lamentable 2006 remake can't hold a candle to the original, though they did try.

As bad as the remake may be, you have to give props to Mia for playing Mrs. Baylock.

So, are you like me and not scared at all by movies about the Devil, demons, possession and teh anti-Christ? Or do those concepts make you want to crap your pants? For me - it has to be good, original and at least interesting. The maker's of this year's disappointing indie-surprise hit Paranormal Activity could learn a lesson or two from these films.
More terrors, anon

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bad Movie! No!

How many movies have you seen that deserve to be smacked on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper (or at least the noses of everyone involved)? Plenty, I'll bet. Yet, there is something about a particularly bad movie... And without bad movies, we would never have had MST3K or Rifftrax. And please trust me when I tell you that you've seen way more bad movies than actually good ones, even if you don't realize it.

Of course, Bad Movies would probably never have gotten to be so pouplar if it weren't for the Medved brothers' 1980 satirical book 'The Golden Turkey Awards," in which they officially dubbed Edward D. Wood's Plan Nine from Outer Space as the Worst Movie Ever Made. Now, I have seen Plan Nine... several times, and while it is certainly a 'so-bad-it's-good' movie, it is hardly the Worst Movie Ever Made (even before Gigli, Georgia Rules and almost anything made by Uwe Boll).

But, since this 'Shocktober' at Cali's Rev and your Uncle Prospero is an admittedly 'weird guy," this post is, of course, about '10 Bad Horror Movies I Love and/or Hate.'

10. Director (and I use the word loosely) Hershel Gordon Lewis is responsible for some really terrible Horror movies including Blood Feast; The Wizard of Gore and The Gore-Gore Girls. But the H.G. Lewis movie that will always hold a special place in my heart has to be 2,000 Maniacs. Six unlucky Yankees en route to Florida are detoured into a small southern town celebrating their Centennial. Turns out, its the Centennial of their massacre during the Civil War and the Yankees are teh victims of the ton's ghostly revenge. Bad acting, bad special effects and deliciously ridiculoous dialog all add up to one of the unintentionally funniest Horror movies, ever:

9. I saw Deep Blue Sea at a matinee with a co-worker after she had consumed a plate of garlic crab claws at the restaurant next door, and I made her sit three seats away from me. She still didn't didn't stink as much as this ridiculous 'Smart Shark' movie, and no amount of Thomas Jane (The Mist) or L.L. Cool J could clear the stench - though a hilarious whiff of fresh air did arrive in the form of cinema's Least Expected Death Ever, St. Crispin Be Damned:

8. Say what you will about this next selection, but it got me interested in Meso-American cultures and mythology. 1946's The Flying Serpent, starring George Zucco was my introduction to Pre-Colombian history, long before the lies were fed in school. Just learning how to pronounce the name of the god 'Quetzalcoatl' was cool to me (What? I said I was a weird kid, more than once). But, more than just it's bastardized cultural irreverence, The Flying Serpent features all three requisites for a truly bad movie: bad acting, bad writing and ridiculous special effects. I couldn't find a clip online, but you can see the ridiculous trailer here. Of course, it was "re-booted" (before that term existed) by Schlockmeister Larry Cohen as Q: The Winged Serpent, an equally bad update starring Michael Moriarty; Candy Clark; David Carradine and Richard Roundtree:

7. Another Lewis 'masterpiece' is the nearly incomprehensible The Wizard of Gore. It concerns a mad magician named Montag the Magnificent, who performs gruesome and macabre illusions on stage, only to see his volunteers actually mutilated long after the performance. Thanks to the magic that was VHS, my sister and I watched this movie together in the mid-80's. If you know my sister, you know she wouldn't say "damn" if a gun was held to her head. About halfway through WOG, she turned to me and said "What the hell??!!!???" I whole-heartedly concur:

6. In 1980, Italian director Ruggero Deodato made a "mockumentary" that inspired today's slate of First Person Perspective movies like Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity. Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust caused such an uproar in Italy, that the director was charged with murdering his cast and had to remove them from hiding (as part of a publicity stunt) in order to prove his innocence. The movie itself is pretty terrible, and only gets its reputation from the infamous trial:

How anyone could believe such bad acting is beyond me...

5. More of a Fantasy movie than Horror movie, the Russian-made The Day the Earth Froze features a witch, so I suppose it qualifies under 'Shocktober' standards. The movie is based on Norwegian folklore and remains one of the funniest MST3K episodes, ever:

4. Ed Wood made several bad movies, but none quite so ridiculous as Bride of the Monster, the movie so infamously quoted in Tim Burton's Ed Wood. A morphine-addicted Bela Lugosi stars as a mad scientist intent on making "a race of Atomic Supermen:"

"Don't be afraid of Lobo. He's as harmless as a kitchen."

3. In 1991, director Stephen Sommers revitalized an old Universal Monsters franchise with his re-imagining of The Mummy. Clever, fresh and featuring the eye candy that is Brendan Fraser, The Mummy was a fun ride with an old friend. Not so much his over-saturated with CGI mess, Van Helsing. Loud, stupid and obnoxious, Van Helsing is no one's idea of a good time:

2. Canadian movies don't tend to really well here in the U.S., David Cronenberg movies, aside. Nut in 1987, Hungarian born Canadian filmmaker Tibor Takacs introduced a young Hottie-To-Be Stephen Dorff in a little film called The Gate. Dorff and his misfit buddy who is obsessed with Heavy Metal music, accidentally open a door to hell, releasing a hoard of demons and almost causing the End of Days. Of course, love the saves the day:

1. A hard choice to make, but my Number One Love/Hate Bad Horror Movie of all time has to be Zombie Nightmare starring mullet-headed Canadian body builder/model/actor/rocker Jon Mikl Thor; Tia Carrere and Adam West. JMT, as I affectionately refer to him, has appeared in some true pieces of crap, but none so hilarious as this:

Homoerotic much?

So, what are you favorite/most hated Bad Horror Movies?

More terrors, anon.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Madmen, Cannibals and Slashers

Why does Jason Voorhees get a doll? Yes, he's going onto his 12th incarnation (in 3D, no less), but there are plenty of other Horror movie killers more worthy of a doll.

I've already recently talked about the Father (or is it Mother) of the Slasher genre, Hitchcock's still effective and nearly perfectly-made Psycho. At the time, Hollywood was in a tizzy. the Master of Suspense making a cheap indie horror movie? What was he thinking? Indeed. Psycho ended up being quite an extraordinary film that literally changed the movie-going habits of America. Richard Matheson wrote both the novel and screenplay, based on the notorious Wisconsin necrophiliac, Ed Gein.

13 years later, Kim Henkal and Tobe Hooper would base their screenplay on Gein, as well. This time, the story was set in Texas and the Gein character was an entire family of sadistic cannibals who lured strangers to their remote farm where they would be terrorized before being butchered. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a drive-in sensation and started Hooper's directing career (which sadly peaked with Poltergeist). Of course, the most memorable member of this mad clan was a character simply known as Leatherface (so named because he wears a mask made of other human faces stitched together). The interesting think about TTCM is that we never really see any of the violence. We see its aftermath and we hear that terrible chainsaw running, but really awful stuff happens off screen, leaving the view to conjure up his or her own horrifying images, proving that less is, indeed, more.

TTCM has had several sequels, though only Hooper's own is any good. sadly, it wasn't until 1986 when Hooper and Henkal reunited for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, the truly nightmarish sequel set mostly in the access tunnels beneath an abandoned amusement park. Bill Mosely (more about him in a bit) plays a Chop-Top, one of the most vile and repulsive and still fascinating characters in Horror history. And the scene where Leatherface tries to make our heroine waer her own mask? Stupefyingly horrific.

I saw TTCM2 in a theater, and remembering feeling the same nightmarish numbness I felt after seeing Apocalypse Now and another movie I'll talk about in a bit.

Now - you may be asking yourself about the inclusion of a certain 1978 classic Horror movie and it's immortal antagonist, a certain M.M. I feel like I need to let you know that I am deliberately omitting this particular film from this particular post because of an upcoming, preplanned post of it's own.

Director Bob Clark (A Christmas Story), got his start in Horror. He'd previously made a weird zombie picture called Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things, but in 1974 he gave us Black Christmas, a gruesome little tale about a killer stalking a sorority. Olivia Hussey (Romeo and Juliet); Keir Dullea (2001); Margot Kidder (Superman: The Movie); John Saxon (another film yet to come) and the fabulous Andrea Martin (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) star in this low budget, yet very effective movie:

Don't bother with the 2006 remake.

Last House on the Left director Wes Craven returned in 1977 with a gruesome little story inspired by ancient Scottish history called The Hills Have Eyes. A family on their way to California in a motor-home breaks down in the desert, only to be descended upon by a clan of mutant cannibals. It starred the would would be Elliot's mom in E.T., Dee Wallace and the extraordinary-looking Michael Berryman:

In 1980, Sean S. Cunningham got his and Kevin Bacon's career off to a start with a nasty little
slasher movie called Friday the 13th. We all know that Jason (see the doll, above) is not the antagonist in the the franchise's progenitor, but rather his mother (played hilariously over-the-top by former 50's B-Lister Betsy Palmer). The only worse performance is from 'Final Girl' Adrienne King, who doesn't survive past the first ten minutes of the sequel. Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead; From Dusk Till Dawn) provided the gruesome and gory FX.

1980 also saw William Lustig's version of Joe Spinell's Maniac, loosely inspired by The Son of Sam. At the time, it was reviled for it's over-the-top violence, but Horror fans were really excited by Make-up Master Tom Savini's state-of-the-art FX.

That's Savini getting his head blown off in the opening shots, by the way. It would be another four years before an iconic, unkillable killer would grace the silver screen.

Legendary director Wes Craven created a new franchise and a new killer in 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street:

Not only did Nightmare... bring us Freddy Krueger (thereby making a Horror icon out of actor Robert Englund), it was the feature debut of uber-talented and uber-eccentric Johnny Depp. And of course, John Saxon is not only our heroine Nancy's dad, he's the chief of police with a big secret.

There were plenty of terrible slasher movies in the 80's (and they'll get their own post, as well).
Though 1986 brought us the chilling Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer. Starring Michael Rooker (Slither), was a brutal and terrifying look into the mind of a madman:

But it wouldn't be until 1991 that a cannibalistic serial killer again caught audience's attention. Previously portrayed by Bryan Cox in Michael Mann's Manhunter, Anthony Hopkins won an Academy Award for his performance as Doctor Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lector in Jonathan Demme's riveting adaption of Thomas Harris' The Silence of the Lambs, despite having less than 30 minutes of actual screen time.

Then in 1995, director David Fincher directed the only movie I have never been able to bring myself to watch again, Se7en. This is only the third movie that made me feel like I was watching someone else's nightmare, and it disturbed me from the opening credits. Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey star in this exceptionally creepy tale of a serial killer using the Seven Deadly Sins as his M.O. Set in an unnamed city wher it constantly rains, Se7en is the single most disturbing movie I have ever seen.

Rocker-turned-director Rob Zombie made a loving homage to those 70's horror flicks with House of 1000 Corpses in 2003. Undeservedly maligned, House... hearkens back to TTCM in a tale about a family of maniacs luring strangers in to torture and kill them. And those they don't kill are given over to the deformed Dr. Satan for experimentation:

Zombie's technically superior 2005 sequel, The Devil's Rejects is a revenge tale and ignores Dr. Satan and his experiments altogether. In both films, TCM2's Bill Mosely is super creepy as Otis:

The slasher genre eventually evolved into the 'Torture Porn' genre of films like Saw and Hostel, exercises in bad taste, rather than true Horror. And recent attempts at rebooting some those franchises have been less than critically successful (though I do have hopes for the upcoming Elm Street reboot, starring Jackie Earle Haley.

OK, so tell me... What serial killer/slasher flick got to you? Who's your favorite unstoppable maniac?I left some off my list for brevity's sake (ha!). Maybe one of them is yours...

More terrors, anon.