Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jeepers Creepers (2001)

"Every 23 years, for 23 days, it gets to eat"

 The Plot:

A brother and sister driving home for spring break encounter a creature on an isolated country road.

My Thoughts:
 This movie is as far from the typical horror movie as you can get.  First there are none of the standard horror movie stereotypes.  No nerds, no jocks, no dumb blondes, and no sex starved co-eds.   Instead we have a normal brother and sister just trying to get home for spring break.

I'd just let him pass. 
Horror movies that take place in broad daylight are much more horrifying to me.  You expect things to go bump in the night, not to try and run you down during rush hour. 

Gina Philips and Justin Long during a rare quiet moment.
Trish and Darry generally avoid doing the standard stupid things.  I say generally, because they do one VERY stupid thing that sets the rest of the movie in motion.  Writer/director Victor Salva goes a long way to justify their stupid act, but I'm pretty sure most people would have kept on going.

This is how I picture all hitchhikers.
The "Creeper" himself is a bit of an enigma.  He uses ancient weapons, but he drives a truck.  A truck that looks to be a 1950's model, but drives like it has a jet engine in it.  We never really get a good explanation of the creeper, and that works for me.  The less you know about the boogeyman, the more frightening he is. 

Keeping things focused on the two siblings, raises the tension.    There aren't any extra teens around just to raise the body count. 

As someone who watches a lot of horror movies, one that breaks the mold is refreshing. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Conan the Barbarian 3D (2011)

Well, I think we all know the story.
The second 1980's remake that a saw this weekend, and a huge disappointment.  So here's the good, the bad and the ugly of why.

The Good:
The riddle of steel.
Ron Perlman really shines as Conan's father.  The scenes with Perlman and young Conan, played by Leo Howard are the highlight of the movie.  The two share a natural chemistry that was missing from the other characters in the film.  

Way to turn a hot girl creepy. 
Rose Mcgowan is very creepy as the witch Marique, who has a super disturbing love for her father Khlaer Zym.  She actually out creeped the main baddie.

“I live. I love. I slay…I am content.”
Jason Momoa is excellent as Conan .  He plays the character as manipulative and smart character, who relies on more than brawn to get his revenge. The only downside is that he doesn't have much chemistry with female lead.  I blame this more on Rachel Nichols however. 

The Bad:
I'm a thug with a daughter who wants to have sex with me.
The main villain, Kahler Zym, is very underwhelming. He came off as a thug, more suited to be a henchmen than the main baddie.  A hero needs an appropriate villain, this guy came off as someone who should have been fighting Conan's friends.

Besides the underwhelming baddie, plot holes the size of hoover dam are everywhere.  Characters who could use magic, but don't, people who risk the end of the world just to get laid, etc. 

The Ugly:
The Conan birth scene was the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen.  When the whole theater bursts out laughing, at what should have been a dramatic scene,  you know they have done something wrong. 

I'm a princess or a monk or something.

Rachel Nichols character was not very well defined.  You never really had a sense of who she was. She should have been as defined as Conan, instead you got a one dimensional character who was just there for Conan to have sex with.

All in all this a remake that is best skipped.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fright Night 3D (2011)

 Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is a high school senior who’s on top of the world—that is until Jerry (Colin Farrell) moves in next door and Charlie discovers that he is a vampire preying on the neighborhood.

As a huge fan of the original I was a little nervous when I heard it was being remade.  My fears were unfounded as it turns out.  This new version manages to stay true to the original while being updated for the 21st century.  
Screenwriter Marti Noxon, a veteran of "Buffy" and "Angel", knows a thing or two about how to write dialogue for horror movies.
You have to have faith for that to work.
Colin Farrell does a great job seeming confident and more than a bit smarmy as Jerry the vampire.  The entire cast deliver great performances, but one stands above the rest.  

Doctor Who?
David Tennant takes the role of Peter Vincent and runs with it.  Roddie McDowell played the character as a sad washed up actor looking for a break.  Tennant's Vincent is a magician and an arrogant coward who has exploited the vampire legend to make himself rich.  It's very shocking to see Tennant drinking, cussing and generally acting like a douche-bag.

Anyone looking to remake a horror movie should look to this as how it's done.   My only complaint is that the film being in 3D wasn't really necessary. There were a couple of times it was cool, but mostly it could have been 2D and been the same movie.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Super 8

The Plot: In the summer of 1979 a group of friends making a zombie movie stumble on more than they bargained for. 

My Two-Cents: This movie is every nerds dream.  You're hanging out with your best friends and that cute girl who you might have a chance with, while making a horror movie, sounds good right?  Oh and you also get to uncover a vast conspiracy and save the world, perfect.
While the nerd elements are important, they are not the whole movie.  The movie is really about repairing relationships and coming to terms with loss.  Some of the plot points were predictable and one scene at the end was a bit heavy handed.  That said, I enjoyed the movie and would throughly recommend it. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Future of Horror

The final Saw film came out last year marking the end of an era.  Every Halloween for seven years a new film was released.  This was remarkable since few horror films have pulled this off.   Now that they are over, I have to ask "What's Next"? 

Horror films have long been the product of their times and subject to trends.  The success of Saw brought on the trend of the so-called "torture-porn" movies.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre  remake's success has led to countless horror classics being remade.  

What will the next trend in horror be?  I personally think it will be documentary/found footage film.  The Last Exorcism, Paranormal Activity, Quarantine (which was itself a remake of rec) these films have already proven to be successful.  They have small budgets, and yield a great return for the studios.  They also cash in on the reality TV craze that has been going strong for the last few years.  

 I have a feeling that the trend may not last as long in horror though.  Horror fans tend to want something new to shock them, that's why most of the trends don't last that long.  Horror fans also like to have a villain with a face too.  That's something that these found footage/mockumentary films generally lack.  Jason, Freddy, Michael and recently Victor Crowley give the horror fan someone to fear.

I think the found footage has a couple of years left.  After that, who knows?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Three things found in every horror movie house, but rarely in yours

Hopefully you live in the house on the right.

While horror movie tend to change with the times, there are a few things they are behind on.  Some of the most important involve changes in building design and personal hygiene.   So here are a few of the most out of place items in horror movies. 

Well maybe they have these at Sweeny Todd's house.
 1. Straight razors.  Almost every house in a horror movie seems to have baskets of these things just laying around.  They always make for a scary visual, but when was the last time you saw one in real life?  I'm 40 and I've only seen them in horror movies.  It's probably a good thing, I can cut myself with a safety razor, these things would kill me.

They always leave your back to the door too.

2. The claw-foot tub.  The main reason for these is so that the killer can pop up behind the teenage girl and murder her.  I say teenage girl, because in horror movies men never take baths or showers. 

3. The bathroom mirror/medicine cabinet.  Long ago these were replaced with larger mirrors so people would have a place to pose for Facebook pictures.  The only purpose these serve in horror movies is this:

Honorable Mention: Breaker boxes on the outside of the house.  By about 1980 people learned that keeping the controls to the power outside was a bad idea.  Now the psycho has to actually be in the house before he can plunge the heroes into darkness.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Insidious (2011)

Nothing creepier than an evil looking kid.

Director: James Wan
Writer: Leigh Whanell

The Story:  A family discovers that dark spirits have possessed their home and that their son has inexplicably fallen into a coma.   

The Good: The cast does a great job in this movie. 
As if one haunted house wasn't bad enough. 

 Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson are not only very believable they also make smart choices.  One of the things I really liked about this movie, was that the characters avoided making many of the stereotypical stupid horror movie mistakes. 
To me, the characters that stole the movie were Specs and Tucker. 
Leigh Whannell as, you guessed it "Specs"
Angus Sampson as Tucker
Specs and Tucker are paranormal investigators who get called in to see if the house is truly haunted.  They show using ghostbusting equipment that looks half steam-punk, half MacGyver.  These two low rent ghostbusters are very engaging and I would really like to see a whole movie just about them. 

The Bad: While the characters avoid many horror cliches, the movie does not.  A lot of the scares are simply loud musical cues, and the old black cat scare.  The must have had a very low budget on this because some of the scenes are nothing but black backgrounds and fog. 
When they decide to conduct a seance, things with the psychic take a turn into bat-shit weird that I can't even explain properly.  You'll just have to see it to believe it.

The Ugly: By now everyone has probably seen this scene on the trailer:
It's not polite to point.

The monster here looks very creepy and intimidating.  They really should have kept him in the shadows.  At first the creature is only glimpsed in shadows or psychic drawings.  He's very scary looking in all of those.  Once they finally reveal him, not so much.  Imagine a creature that has  Darth Maul's head on a shirtless male model body, wearing goatskin leggings and there you go. 

The Verdict: This is not a terrible movie, but it doesn't really break any new ground.  It's worth watching, but not something I would see twice.  I would like to see a sequel that focuses on Specs and Tucker's next job though. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)

One of these statements is untrue.
Director: Albert Pyun
  • Lee Horsley (yes the same guy who played Matt Houston)  as Talon
  • Simon Mac Corkindale (Manimal!) as Prince Mikah 
  • Richard Lynch as Cromwell 
  • Richard Moll (Bull on Night Court) as Xusia
  • Kathleen Beller as Alana 
The Plot:
From the title you may be asking yourself if the movie is some sort of Arthur/Excalibur type story.  No, the reason they titled it that is this:
Didn't see that coming did you?

Yes, Talon has a sword, that FUCKING SHOOTS SWORDS.  Let's see another example of this:
Better than a shotgun.
Do you want to know what makes this even more awesome?  They never explain it at all.  They just act like this was common technology at the time. 

The evil Cromwell, is there anything that Richard Lynch hasn't been in?

The plot is your basic fantasy trope.  A man called Cromwell makes a deal with an evil sorcerer to help conquer Ehdan.
Richard Moll as Xusia, demon sorcerer.

Our hero Talon is the youngest son of good King Richard who rules Ehdan .  The evil Cromwell murders Richard and the queen. Young Talon escapes only to return 11 years later to seek vengeance.  Pretty standard so far. 

I'm here to reclaim my birthright, or eat meat and get laid, whatever.

Talon returns with a group of mercenaries, and they all immediately hit the local whorehouse and mutton hutt.
Why is Frank Fontana here?

Meanwhile Prince Mikah and his sister Alana, are plotting to over through Cromwell and put Mikah on the throne.  They repeatedly say that Mikah is the rightful heir to the throne (pay attention, this will get more disturbing later).  Mikah and Alana are attacked by the Cromwell's men and Mikah is captured. 
I saved you, now have sex with me.

Alana is cornered in an alley and about to be gang raped by Cromwell's men when Talon arrives and saves her.    Our gallant hero then agrees to help rescue her brother and depose the king, but only if Alana will "Get perfumed and pretty" and have sex with him.  So right away we get to see what a truly noble guy Talon is.  Nothing like saving a woman from rape and then extorting sex from her.  Now let's think about the even more disturbing part.  If Prince Mikah is a rightful heir to the throne and Alana is his sister, wouldn't that make them both related to Talon in some way?  Yeah, they really glossed over that one.  Also, shouldn't Talon speak up and say "Hey, I'm the son of the king that was killed".  I would think that would be worth mentioning to a group of rebels. Although maybe not if you were extorting sex from your relative. 

Oh, the days before CGI....

My Thoughts:
Only Ed Wood used stock footage more than Albert Pyun.  I think every exterior shot of the castle came from either an old Dracula or Camelot movie.  Although the one scene showed camels walking around a clearly Arabic city.   

The costumes were an odd mix of Arabic swordsman and English period costumes .  The sets were recycled too, it's odd that a country called  Ehdan would use the same flag as England.  

This movie is filled with plot holes and inconsistencies.   It uses slapstick humor, graphic violence and nudity sometimes in the same scene.
Nothing like a good crucifixion scene.
This movie apparently has a huge cult following, but I'm sure it's mainly people who saw it as a kid.  I was eleven when I first saw this, and my only clear memories of it were the sword he used and that there was lots of nudity.   This is one of those films that having seen as a small child you have a very slanted memory of.  

It's worth watching just for the sword cannon scenes, but don't expect much else to be original. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Drive Angry-2011

You have to love the retro poster.
Directed by: Patrick Lussier
Screenplay by Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier

The Plot:   Nicholas Cage is John Milton, a thief who drives out of Hell to rescue his granddaughter.  Along the way he gets help from Piper (Amber Heard) an out of work waitress. 

My Thoughts:  This is the perfect marriage of a car chase movie and a horror film.  It's a definite throwback to the Drive-In and Grindhouse days of the 70's.  The action is fast, bloody and without remorse.  Most of the effects on this looked to be more practical than CGI and this really helps the movie keep it's gritty feel. 

John Milton is not happy.
Cage does a great job at playing Milton.  You feel sympathy for him, but he's not a squeaky clean hero.  He's tarnished, but trying to make amends.

Yes, I'd let her pick me up.
Heard is great as the "take no shit" waitress that helps Cage out.  She's far from a victim and manages to do almost as much damage as Cage in the movie.
William Fichtner as Hells Accountant.
Sent to retrieve Milton, the accountant casually manages to steal the show.  He's hilariously funny and coldly menacing all in the same scene.  

Shoot for their tires, and by tires I mean head.

Making his second appearance in a Farmer/Lussier film is horror legend Tom Atkins.  Atkins shows up wearing the greatest T-Shirt ever, and proves he can still kick ass.
Also making a second onscreen appearance is screenwriter Todd Farmer, once again as Frank the trucker. I don't think it's a coincidence that the characters end up in the same situation either.  

"Drive Angry" is a fun fast paced film, that grindhouse fans are sure to enjoy.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Urban Legend-1998

There are a lot of famous faces on this poster.

Director: Jamie Blanks
Writer: Silvio Horta 

The Plot:  A college student is surrounded by deaths that seem to recreations of popular Urban Legends.  

My Thoughts: This movie had the misfortune to come out about a year after "Scream".  The timing caused many people to view it as a "Scream" rip-off.  I didn't think this was the case at all.  I saw this as a slasher film that just tried to set itself apart from others in the genre.  This was really a mystery/slasher film, which I thought worked well. 

As a sound sleeper this one always freaked me out.

At the time this movie was released there weren't whole websites devoted to debunking all the various Urban Legends.  Now when you hear a story that sounds far fetched, a 30 second search can verify it.  Back in 1998, the internet wasn't as widely used as it is now.  The only scene in the movie where people even use the net, has them using dial up.  They got a lot of mileage out people having heard of these stories in their own life. I knew people who had actually heard a lot of these legends and had believed them.   It allowed you to know what was coming next, and it built dread waiting for it.  
One lesson I learned from horror movies, always check the back seat!

 "Urban Legend" certainly had an A-list cast, even if we didn't know it yet in 1998
Alicia Witt as Natalie Simon

Witt played a smart lead that didn't fall into the typical slasher girl mold. She generally made smart choices, and reacted in a realistic way to events.  She never stripped off and had sex while the ax murderer was known to be outside.  

This is not to say that there weren't plenty of stereotypes in the movie.  
Tara Reid played the slutty blond, not for the last time.   

 Long before all her surgery nightmares and public meltdowns Tara Reid  pulled off a decent performance.  At the time I thought she might make a career out of horror films. 

Joshua Jackson and Michael Rosenbaum are the "typical" frat guys. 

 I'm pretty sure Joshua Jackson was looking to do anything that would separate him from his "Dawson's Creek" role, although there was a brief reference to it.  After all his years on "Smallville" it's hard to remember a time when Michael Rosenbaum had hair. 

Probably not her favorite role in a horror film.
"Urban Legend" is also notable as it marked Danielle Harris returning to horror films for the first time since 1989's "Halloween V".  It always struck me odd she did this and then stayed away from horror till the "Halloween" remake.

Jared Leto,  college journalist on a mission.
 Jared Leto played Paul Gardner, the college reporter that Natalie turns to for help.  Like most of the people in the movie he was also a suspect in the murders.  He was one of the ones you thought so unlikely to have done it, they might actually make him the killer.

Robert Englund Professor Wexler.
In reality the most unlikely/likely suspect had to be Robert Englund.  It's always good to see him in roles besides Freddy.

It was a shame that writer Silvio Horta never did another horror flick.  He's had great success with "Ugly Betty" and I'm glad, but wish he would have done some more horror. 

"Urban Legend" is in many ways the last of the mystery/slasher films.  "Scream" has kept going, but very few new ones have come out.  The rise of the so-called "torture porn"  thinned them out.  It's shame, I miss them.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Resurrected-1991

Directed by Dan O'Bannon
Screenplay by Brent Friedman, based on "The Curious Case of Charles Dexter Ward" by H.P. Lovecraft

I found this in the $3 bin at Wal-Mart last Halloween and decided to give it a try.  It was definitely worth more than that, and I think it is way under appreciated.

The Story: It stars John Tery as Detective John March, who is hired by Claire Ward (Jane Sibbert) to find out what has happened to her husband Charles (Chris Sarandon).  Charles was perfectly normal until a few months ago when found some papers from one of his ancestors Joseph Curwen.
He began to behave more and more erratically and the neighbors complained of the smell coming from the lab in his coach-house.  The police eventually raid his lab after several boxes of human remains are shipped there.  Charles leaves his wife and will have no contact with her.  Not knowing what to do she turns to March for help.

My Thoughts: This is very old school horror movie.  I think it's important to mention the sets and costumes. I've always been a fan of practical effects and not green screen.  You had a feeling of claustrophobia with the characters as they descended into the ancient catacombs.  Flashbacks showing Curwen in the 1700's were very well done, with the characters in excellent period costumes.  Some lower budget horror flicks will skimp on this sort of thing, but the costumes and sets gave it the feel of a historical drama.

This is why I don't go hiking.
The effects are mostly practical make-up effects and generally hold up well.  There are a few moments of claymation and flashing lights that practically scream "it's the 1980's", but they were not overly distracting from the story.
Reason #1 why you don't explore old catacombs.
 The cast are all first rate and are recognizable from other TV shows and movies.  John Tery later played Jack's father Christian Shepard on "Lost".  Jane Sibbert played Ross's ex-wife Carol on "Friends".  Robert Romanus is March's partner and despite dozens of TV and movie roles is still best know as Mike Damone in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". Chris Sarandon is excellent as Charles Ward/Joesph Curwen but is very underused.  His screen time is very limited and that's a shame.

Doesn't a widow defeat the purpose of a padded cell? 
The movie is not without it's flaws. At one point March has a bizarre nightmare that looks like an 80's metal video, and no explanation for that is ever given.  The characters also suffer from horror movie stupidity from time to time.  They never remember to take extra batteries for the flashlight or take a spare.  When exploring ancient ruins that might be cursed, everyone is armed, it's just common sense. 

O'Bannon only directed one other movie besides this one, "The Return of the Living Dead".  He did a good job creating a memorable atmospheric horror film here. It's a shame he didn't direct more, he certainly wrote several classics.  Screenwriter Brent Friedman also quite a few genre credits to his name, and I am a huge fan of his "Dark Skies" TV series.

A horror flick well worth checking out!