Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Halloween (2007)

"These eyes will deceive you, they will destroy you. They will take from you, your innocence, your pride and eventually your soul. These eyes do not see what you and I see. Behind these eyes one finds only blackness, the absence of light, these are the eyes of a psychopath"

When it comes down to horror remakes, most scrape the bottom of the barrel. Most, like in the cases of Prom Night, April Fool’s Day and Day of the Dead barely even follow the original storyline, if at all. Halloween doesn’t do any of that. In fact, it’s the complete opposite! Rob Zombie had directed only 2 films by 2007 (House of 1000 Corpses in 2003 and The Devil’s Rejects in 2005) but he was an established horror director by that time. Even though he had stated earlier that he hated when movies were remade, he went ahead and wrote and directed a remake of Halloween. At first I was very much against this, as many horror fans agreed, Halloween was and still is a classic. The original 1978 John Carpenter directed film is what began the slasher era. It’s perfect as is, why remake what’s perfect? Didn’t anyone learn anything from the 1998 version of Psycho? Apparently not. But, Rob Zombie came in and put together a fantastic film!

Halloween does something the original film did not, it delves into Michael Myers’ childhood and origin. In the original film we see the child (from his P.O.V.) kill his sister at 6 years of age. Then the films jumps forward 15 years to him as an adult and the film begins. This film takes a good solid 30-40 minutes to establish who Michael is, who his family is and how everyone including his mother (played by Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon Zombie) knew something was wrong, but ignored the warning signs. In this film, young Michael (Faerch) kills not only his sister, but her lover and his stepfather. But he saves the baby (later to become our heroine Laurie). After the murders, his mother breaks down and Michael is sent to an institute where Dr. Loomis (McDowell) to the best of his ability tries to help Michael, sadly he is unable and 15 years later, after not speaking for years, Michael escapes the institute and finds his way home to Laurie (Taylor-Compton) who is now a high school student and has no idea of her family background.

The movie is not without it’s flaws. Some poor judgment in casting comes along with Kristina Klebe who played Laurie’s friend Lynda. In my opinion the weakest of the three girls, rounded out by Danielle Harris a veteran of the Halloween series (having been the main actress in both Halloween 4 and Halloween 5). Her acting is stale and annoying at most times. I think the worst casting is that of the children, most particularly Sklyer Gisondo (Tommy Doyal) and Jenny Gregg Stewart (Lindsey Wallace). Lets talk about Stewart first, she is terrible. Overacting throughout the entire film, annoying as shit and just a flat out terrible actress. Gisondo, not much better, not too much overacting, but just flat acting. I understand these are children, but why should they be judged any differently?

There are noticeable horror greats, as Zombie tends to keep it that way in his films, most notably: Brad Dourif who plays the sheriff also voiced Chucky the killer doll in all 5 Child’s Play films, we have Ken Foree who plays Joe Grizzly, appeared in the original Dawn of the Dead and many other horror films, we also have Bill Moseley, who only appears in the theatrical cut, who appeared in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 and the other 2 films Zombie directed. Many others appeared in the film as well, the most interesting was that of Micky Dolenz (a former member of the 1960s rock band The Monkees).

Overall, Zombie did a fantastic job with the film. I love the back story of Michael Myers, I think without that it would have just been another stupid remake. The back story very clearly gave new life to this film, it made the character darker and scarier and because of that made the movie more enjoyable.

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

"There's someone in this room!"

Now remember this is 1981, the heyday for slasher films, so a sequel released less than a year after the original was common place here! The first film did so well that a sequel was planned immediately.

Friday the 13th Part 2 starts off with Alice (King), the lone survivor of the original film, is having a nightmare complete with flashbacks to the original film. It is obvious that she is having problems with her experience. After a lengthy conversation with her mother over the phone, she begins to get ready for a shower, but finds Mrs. Voorhees severed head in the refrigerator and then immediately has an ice pick shoved into her temple, credits roll!

We jump to a camp counselor training area where a bunch of teens (again) are at Crystal Lake, not very far from the camp of the original film. Paul (Furey) is the leader of this training area and warns the kids not to go there, but two of them decide to anyway, finding a dead dog in the process. We also learn that it has been 5 years since the events in the original film. Don’t ask me why they decided to do this, maybe it had something to do with maybe not being able to go near the lake because of the murders? I don’t know. Anyway, Jason is now fully grown and covering his face with a burlap sack with one hole for his one eye (yeah, I know), he hadn’t gotten his trademark hockey mask yet. So he is killing left and right, as usual.

Friday the 13th Part 2 was one of those rare sequels that was almost as good as the original. Halloween II the same year was another example of this. Friday the 13th Part 2 was a worthy sequel because it felt so much like the original, though we got new characters, a somewhat new location and a new killer, a killer that we loved simply because his motive was probably the most simple: You have sex, you die. You do drugs, you die. That simple!

Though Sean S. Cunningham and Victor Miller were gone from the picture, the movie still had some great moments. Even some borrowed from Italian horror movies like the scene of the two people being impaled as they have sex. Whoever came up with that idea was a flat out genius. The movie is a must see if you want to see a great sequel to a great horror film. If you want to see the Friday the 13th films, then you have to see this one.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Child's Play (1988)

"Good night, asshole"

The last decent slasher film of the era, came about 2 years after the slasher film had really died. By 1988, slasher films had been reduced to sequels of all ready produced slasher films from earlier in the decade. Films like A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers and Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers all came out in 1988. But, by the hand of writer Don Mancini we would add another name to names you can’t ever name your child again because they will be related to evil. Along with the names, Damien, Freddy and Jason came the name Chucky.

Child’s Play is a story we’ve seen a million times over, a killer doll. We saw it on The Twilight Zone some 25 years prior to the release of this film. The movie follows Andy Barclay (Vincent) a young boy who badly wants a Good Guy doll for his birthday. But his mother Karen (Hicks) can’t afford one. She is able to buy from a pedaler in an alley for him. Andy loves his new toy, until people start dying around him. Everyone, including Detective Mike Norris (Sarandon), believe the murders to have been done by Andy. Andy swears up and down that it was Chucky (voiced, incredibly by Brad Dourif). It isn’t until Andy is put into an institute that his mother finally discovers that Chucky is indeed a murderer, and not only a murderer by the Lake Shore Strangler Charles Lee Ray (also played by Dourif).

The reasoning behind the greatness that is Child’s Play is that we haven’t seen a killer doll like this before. This predated Puppetmaster by a year, and even that movie wouldn’t have held up had it been released a year earlier. Chucky talks, swears, and can kill you with anything. Even a hammer to the face. Chucky was a nasty little fuck who could scare the shit out of you if you saw him in real life. Another thing that added to the fear of this movie was Tom Holland’s great direction. The camera angles he used were truly terrifying. The suspense that he used with the camera angles is what really made this movie jump out at you.

But, every great film has it’s down sides. The acting from young Alex Vincent was extremely horrible. I think it is very difficult when casting a child actor, but whoever picked this kid, really didn’t know what they were doing. I have to believe there was a better child actor who came in for the part. This acting is very one dimensional and his voice is monotone, except for the scene when Chucky is coming after him at the institute, other than that scene he sucked. And even in the sequel 2 years later he was still an awful actor. Now I can see why they chose to go with a different actor in the 3rd installment and finally drop his character in the 4th and 5th installments.

For it’s time, Child’s Play was very scary movie that made a good amount of money at the box office, which is why it went onto to spawn 4 sequels. Sadly, I have read news that they are also remaking this movie. I guess nothing is safe anymore from being remade. Look out Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer you guys are next!

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

“I’m afraid to close my eyes, I’m afraid to open them”

In 1994 three student filmmakers went into the woods of Burkittsville to film a documentary on the Blair Witch, they were never seen again. One year later their footage was found. That is basically how The Blair Witch Project begins. This film was released during the summer of 1999, during a time when slasher sequels had risen again and were tearing up the teenage audiences (both metaphorically and literally, in the movie sense). When first glancing at The Blair Witch Project you may be turned off by how it was made. The entire movie is shot like a documentary. And before I go on anymore, we know now that the movie was just that, a movie. There were no student filmmakers making a documentary on anything, and that’s what made this movie “scary as hell” as Rolling Stone put it in their review of the movie.

We follow these filmmakers, Heather, Mike and Josh as they venture to Burkittsville, Maryland, formerly known as Blair, as they try to understand the legend of the Blair Witch. In the beginning they interview townspeople, and about 15 minutes into the movie they make their final and apparently fatal venture into the woods. While there they uncover more of the legend, but as it moves along we soon discover that the three filmmakers are lost and have no map to get back. What follows is some of the scariest filmmaking I’ve ever seen in my life. Looking back at it now, it seems funny because there have been so many parodies of this movie, most notably in the Wayans brothers movie Scary Movie which came out only one year after this film did. You never actually see anything. That may not sound very scary, but believe me it is. I can’t remember the last movie that actually was able to scare an audience by showing nothing and just leaving it up to the imagination. Movies used to do this all the time, but that time has come and gone. So see a movie like this, it literally scares you.

Now, there are people out there that call this movie stupid and boring, and I can see where they are coming from. This is not by any means a movie to watch over and over again, but it is indeed a movie that you need to see at least once. Granted this movie is not original by any means. In fact in bears a strong resemblance to Cannibal Holocaust from 1980. The main difference between the two are that in this movie you see nothing, in Cannibal Holocaust it’s the exact opposite, you see everything. In Cannibal Holocaust only the last half of the movie is the footage the filmmakers made, with lots of cutting between present time and the footage itself. In The Blair Witch Project the entire movie is the footage.

The marketing for this movie was some of the most ingenious marketing I’ve ever seen. Basically posters had the above mentioned tag of the film about the footage being found. The filmmakers even went as far as putting out missing photos of the three people and launching a website with all these facts on what happened to the three filmmakers. On the Internet Movie Database, the three actors were listed as “Missing”. This was a very big marketing technique, so well done, that people actually started to believe it. Which is probably why the movie did so well.

The Blair Witch Project became the highest grossing independent horror movie since Halloween some twenty odd years before. The movie cost only $60,000 to make and made over $140 million domestically and over $245 million worldwide. This went onto spawn numerous mockumentaries and even a terrible sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 the following year. I think the coolest of these offshoots was that of the mockumentary on the DVD of The Blair Witch Project titled Curse of the Blair Witch, which gave out all the “facts” of the Blair Witch. A very interesting little piece. Nothing has come along since this movie to live up to its fear and ingenious marketing.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Social Network (2010)

"If you invented Facebook you would've invented Facebook"

When I first heard about this movie my first reaction was the same as I'm sure others had, a movie about Facebook?? What the fuck?? That just sounds terrible! Well, guess what? I was wrong! Did I actually expect it to go to such fame? No, but after hearing all the good things people were saying about the film I just had to see it.

The film is mostly about the two guys who created Facebook as opposed to being about Facebook itself. Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield steal the show as Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverign respectively. The chemistry that the two have is quite amazing. But the surprise top performer was, believe it or not, Justin Timberlake. Timberlake plays Sean Parker the creator of Napster who befriended Zuckerberg and basically broke up the friendship of Zuckerberg and Saverign.

The film has an amazing screenplay written by Aaron Sorkin who absolutely deserves the Academy Award for it! The film is directed by David Fincher (Fight Club) and has a pretty damn good cast. The film is entertaining because of the chemistry felt from each of the actors. I feel that the casting was greatly done and you really feel that these people are real and could very easily be in these situations. I always think that if a film can pull you in and make you forget you're watching a movie then it's incredibly well done.

Will the film win Best Picture? I don't really know, I think it will steal it but there's some stiff competition from "The King's Speech" so we'll just have to see what happens.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

"It wasn't witchy, it made her feel better"

What happens when you have a really popular and successful horror film? Why you make a sequel and you make it as fast as possible. That's what the makers of "Paranormal Activity" decided to do in 2010. But there are some movies out there that are just good in one single movie and don't need a sequel, that's the case with this movie.

"Paranormal Activity 2" is very much like the first one. Another family, in this case the sister of Katie from the first film, who bring home a new baby only to find themselves in a house that is being haunted. The film acts as a prequel to the original film but suffers in every aspect possible. First off, there's not enough crazy things happening and when they do happen it happens too late. In the first film the strangeness began pretty quickly in this one it takes so long that by the time it happens nobody cares anymore. And the early on strangeness is so fucking subtle if you're not paying close attention you don't even see it. There's a scene pretty early on of the dog barking and scratching at the basement door, fine that was weird, but after that nothing really happens. And a lot of the things that happen are just so goofy that you're not afraid but laughing. You can catch yourself sighing in grief every time another "Night #" graphic comes on the screen, because it's just another case of the film never ending.

This family is so stupid too. Nobody apparently has a job and they live in a huge mansion. They install all these motion sense cameras for no real reason and then they never want to check the cameras except for the daughter who no one listens to anyway. Once the mother starts acting weird nobody seems to want to get the baby out of the house to safety. The ending of the movie is flat out stupid and very reminiscent of the first film. Overall the film fails to do anything but bore you. I truly hope they don't make a third film and it just stops.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Psycho (1960)

"She just went a little mad. We all go a little mad sometimes"

Alfred Hitchcock was known as the master of suspense, and this is the movie to watch if you want to see why. During the 1950s horror was still very much like the horror films of the 1930s, monster movies. There was a sci-fi boom during the 1950s so we got movies about giant spiders, or shrink rays. And during this time that author Robert Bloch wrote a book entitled Psycho and soon movie history would be made.

Psycho is about a young man named Norman Bates (Perkins) who runs the Bates Motel. The movie starts off with the character of Marion Crane (Leigh) who steals $40,000 from her job to help her boyfriend out. On the way to Sam (Gavin), she feels guilty about what she has done and decides to turn back and do the right thing. But, it’s late so she stops at the Bates Motel to rest for the night. There she meets Norman, who seems to be a very lonely man who cares for his mother. While showering, Marion is brutally killed by an unseen woman. And the rest of the movie is trying to figure out what has happened to Marion.

This movie is suspenseful, it’s that simple. This movie also gave birth to the slasher genre, a genre that I follow carefully and enjoyably. Although the slasher era wouldn’t start for another 18 years, this film is considered by many as the first slasher film, and rightfully so. Psycho was released in 1960, during a time when a movie like this would never be seen. This movie was so kept under wraps that Hitchcock made sure that no one was allowed into the theater after it had started. There were many surprises in the movie that people hadn’t seen in a movie before. Like the main character of Marion being killed off within the first 20 minutes of the movie. They got an established actress inside of Janet Leigh (the mother of future scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis) and killed her off without any warning. The ending was also a complete shock to most people when the film first came out.

Since 1960, this film has been parodied thousands of times and 3 sequels would follow in 1983, 1986 and 1990. This film became Hitchcock’s trademark film and would cement his name even further into horror. Anthony Perkins gladly came back for the three sequels, the last being released 2 years before his untimely death. In 1998, Universal released the abomination remake, which starred Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche & Julianne Moore. There is something Hollywood needs to understand, don’t remake classics they don’t need it. No one can play Norman Bates, except for Anthony Perkins.

Pet Sematary (1989)

"Go ahead, lie down, play dead, BE DEAD!"

Back in 1998 / 1999, I was going through every horror movie I could find. Those were the years in which I spent all of my free time getting acquainted with all the classic horror movies. Finally I came across Pet Sematary, this wasn’t my first Stephen King movie, but it soon became my favorite. This movie actually scared me. And when you think about the plot, it doesn’t sound very scary. Just another living dead movie, right? Wrong.

The movie follows the character Louis Creed (Midkiff) and his family as they move into a new home in Maine, moving there from Chicago. There Louis is the new doctor at the college university. While unpacking they meet their new neighbor from across the street Jud Crandall (Gwynne) who takes them and their 2 children on a hike to the pet cemetery. After the family cat is killed, Jud tells Louis about a different cemetery that if you bury your pet there they come back, but they are not the same. In other words, they come back and they are evil. When tragedy strikes the family, and Louis’ son is killed he decides to bury him in that cemetery, against the wishes of Jud. After that all hell breaks loose.

This movie is fantastic. The storyline is really good, and I am very happy to see Stephen King wrote the screenplay as well. It’s always better when the author writes the screenplay as well (King even makes a cameo as the minster at Louis’ son’s funeral). The acting is pretty incredible, both Dale Midkiff and Fred Gwynne are the best, but I think the best acting award goes to 2 year old Miko Hughes. At the end of the movie his character becomes evil and actually kills a bunch of people, and Hughes hits it on the head. He is unbelievable for a 2 year old! There are some bad seeds in the acting apple though. Those go to Denise Crosby, playing the mother Rachel and Blaze Berdahl playing the daughter. Especially Berdahl, she is terrible. I know she was a child actor, but I’m pretty sure Mary Lambert could have found a better child actress. Also, speaking of director Mary Lambert, I want to say she is not very talented. Granted the movie was great, but she doesn’t know how to pick them. Why she came back for Pet Sematary Two is beyond me, and she went on to direct Urban Legends: Bloody Mary so I have very little respect for her. Fred Gwynne is fantastic in his part of Jud. He’s mostly remembered for playing Herman Munster on the 1960s TV sitcom The Munsters, so seeing him playing a regular character was kind of odd, but he played the southern accented Jud excellently.

The movie is scary for many reasons, but the one part in the movie that really scared the crap out of me was the sister of Denise Crosby’s character. She had a sister who had spinal meningitis and died. This all takes place in the past, but the reason it scared me was because of the look of the sister. First off, it was played by a man, a very ugly man. Secondly, the makeup was made to make her look even worse. So we have this very ugly man, locked away in a dark room with all this makeup on to make him look terribly disgusting. So, I have a hard time, even now watching that scene, because it makes me sick.

Overall, this is my favorite Stephen King movie. Most of King’s movies are pretty decent. He’s a talented writer and I think he should write more of his books into movies. Enough of this crap of having other people write them. King! Get out there and write them yourself!

Friday the 13th (1980)

"His name was Jason, and today is his birthday"

And we finally get to my favorite horror movie of all time. Some of you might be saying stuff like, “well Friday the 13th is just a cheap rip off of Halloween”, well some of you are correct. But, how many slasher films that came after Halloween weren’t a rip off? Not many is the answer.

Friday the 13th is about a Camp Crystal Lake, about to reopen it’s doors after many years. The film follows a bunch of teenage camp counselors as they ready the camp for it’s grand reopening. The film actually begins in the 1950s when 2 camp counselors are killed after making out at the camp. We then flash forward to the “present day” as stated on the screen. We find Annie (Morgan) on her way to the camp. She stops in a diner for directions and is told all about camp “blood” as the locals call it. She hitches a rid with a truck driver who then tells her all about the oddities that have happened there when it was going to be reopened before and warns her to quit. She doesn’t listen and eventually is picked up by the killer and has her throat slashed! Steve Christy (Brouwer) the owner of the camp leaves the teens alone to go off and get supplies. While they are alone the counselors are picked off one by one, until we are left with our final girl, Alice (King).

I love this movie for a few reasons. I think that having the killer be Betsy Palmer was a wise choice. Granted I hadn’t even been born yet when this movie came out, I have read things about people knowing that Palmer was an actress known for playing the “nice girl” roles. So to see her in this movie at first threw out something that said, everything will be okay, then to turn it on it’s ear like that and have her be the killer was pure genius! This idea was then copied a million times over, so a new viewer of this movie (as I was at one point) you kind of know when she shows up she is the killer.

Back to the case of it being a rip off of Halloween, it many cases it is. I did enjoy how they used the camera as the killer, though in this movie it was done for a different reason. In Halloween it was used that way simply to create fear in the audience. In Friday the 13th it was done that way too, but it was also done that way to keep the identity of the killer a complete secret, so you wouldn’t even know it was a woman. In fact, they never even mention Pamela Voorhees or Jason in the movie until she appears. I’m not sure if people were trying to guess who the killer was or not, but if they were nobody would have gotten it since neither of the characters were ever introduced.

Friday the 13th also did something Carrie had done some 4 years earlier, but made it a requirement of all slasher films to follow. That being the jump scare at the end of the movie. In the movie, Alice has defeated Mrs. Voorhees and taken a canoe out into the lake to rest. While there the police show up and this triumphant music (composed by the great Harry Manfredini) begins to play and you feel at ease, just then the mongoloid Jason pops out of the water and drags Alice down. Something we’ve all seen a million times over, this was something somewhat new at the time. Movies didn’t end with a jump scare like and people were scared out of their minds because they didn’t expect it, especially at that point in the triumphant music. A great idea!

Friday the 13th is a staple in the horror realm. It is the only series of horror films to hit 10 films and even have a spin-off with A Nightmare on Elm Street in 2003. The sequels began to follow the character of Jason instead of Mrs. Voorhees, which was a bold and right move. The sequels jump back and forth from being good (Jason Lives) to being flat out terrible (A New Beginning), but overall I love the Friday the 13th series, they are my favorites!

I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

"Suck it, bitch!"

I will admit that I began watching this movie years ago and never finished. I was very bored with it the first time I saw it. However, I gave it a second chance with the recent Blu-Ray release of the film. I grabbed it for $10 and watched it all the way through. Is this movie violent and extreme? Yes. Is it hard to watch? For me, no, but I can see how people would say it is.

The film is about Jennifer Hill who goes off to a secluded cabin to write her first novel. She makes the mistake of telling a group of rednecks that she will be all alone. One day they go after her and rape her, repeatedly. She is beaten and raped, she runs off and then is beaten and raped again. She finally makes her way back to her cabin only to be raped again. By the third raping she doesn't even fight back, she is beaten one last time after that. Johnny, the leader of the group tells Matthew (a weak character who seems to only be going along with the group so they'll be his friends) to go back and kill Jennifer to make sure she can't tell anyone. Matthew can't do it and simply tells them he killed her. A deadly mistake for the group. Jennifer regroups and recovers and finally goes after the group, killing Matthew first. The movie then ends immediately after the final killing.

The movie doesn't have much of a plot. It isn't ever explained why the guys go after Jennifer aside from Johnny claiming that Jennifer was "asking for it" referring to her being in her bikini and whatnot. You never feel sympathy for the guys, nor are you supposed to, but it just seems odd to me that they never really explain why they would do this to HER, why HER? Have they done this before? The main problem I had with this film was the fact that she gets raped REPEATEDLY, in "The Last House on the Left" the girls are beaten, raped and murdered, but in this film the rape scene takes up a good portion of the film. So I don't really understand why this film was made at all. Roger Ebert is really famous for saying he hates this movie, even going as far as saying it's the "worst movie ever made" and he recently gave the 2010 remake zero stars just like the original. I haven't seen the remake yet, but I plan to soon.

Is the movie entertaining? Not really, but it does have a pretty brutal murder in the movie. When Jennifer encounters Johnny again she seduces him to get him into her house, he ends up in her bathtub. She begins to give him a hand job only to cut his dick off. She then proceeds to lock him in the bathroom to bleed to death. To me that's one of the most brutal deaths I've ever seen just because he's left to bleed to death as opposed to killing him quickly. Jennifer simply goes into the living room and sits there while Johnny screams "it won't stop bleeding!".