100 Days of Horror welcomes you to ... SATANFEST 2013

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"Y'all know me, know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow ya whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', and down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back the tourists, that'll put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant! I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Sixty-Nine - "Blacula!"


How is everyone this fine rainy-assed day? You know what I think, don't ya? I think it's a fine day to slip into bed with a bowl of popcorn, and warm friend and a stack of crappy horror movies to watch and laugh at!

And let me tell you - today's selection is perfect for both! If you don't find yourself cracking up at the outrageousness of the masterpiece that is "Blacula," then fella I can't help you. Go rent "The Love Guru" and call an escort service. Because obviously your taste is so bad, no one would spend one second of tie with you unless they were being paid a considerable amount of change.

Now on to the show! And don't forget: Tomorrow is Oct. 1, and that kicks off "Ringer Month!" These are some of the best (and most of my favorite) horror movies of all time! I will repost an October list tomorrow, but in the meantime set your phasers to 1982 and behold the horrifying majesty that could only be "Poltergeist!"

Rave on, Readers! And thanks as usual for your time!

Blackula (1972): Directed by William Crain. Starring William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas, Gordon Pinsent and Thalmus Rasulala.

The Skinny: When an African prince is damned to un-death by the racist Dracula - earning himself the name "Blacula" in the process - he returns in modern day Harlem, New York, to cause havoc and to raise an army of fellow "African" vampires.

What's Good: A movie that walks a fine line between horror and exploitation - or, "blacksploitation," as the critics call it - "Blacula" was a critical failure, a box office smash and has risen to the status of cult movie over the last 38 years. And for a few good reasons: William Marshall's doomed Black Prince of Death is a beguiling blend of tortured anguish and a long-legged Mack Daddy. As he parties his way through New York, he is also chasing after a women who bears resemblance to his long-dead queen - just like the original "Dracula" story. BUt Marshall does it to a scintillating early disco/funk soundtrack. And that's just bad-assery at its finest.

What's Bad: This movie has, perhaps, the worst vampire make-up I have ever seen. When I was a likkle bwai in the 70s and I first discovered the joys of Halloween and horror movies, I saw this movie and the vamps - with their silly green pancake and huge, oversized fangs that hung over their lips. And I was scared shitless. Terrified. And I would try to unconsciously replicate that make-up years later as a young teen and I would participate in haunted trails and parades. To se it now is to take measure of exactly what it means to be "low budget." Also, this movie is potentially offensive to blacks, Italians, vampires, African princes and the entire citizenry of 70s-era New York City.

Why We Like It: I love trashy movies, I love movies from teh 70s and I love vampire movies in general (well, to a point - no goddamn "Twilight" in my near future). So there is little for me to hate from this film, frankly. There's also the nostalgia element, since this and its sequel - "Scream, Blacula, Scream," were frequently shown on Channel 48's "Creature Double Feature" Saturday afternoons when I was like eight years old. It's seriously a funny movie and one for the history books, if only because of Marshall's incredible take on the vampire prince myth.

Memorable Stuff: Like I said, ghoulishly horrible vampire makeup that just is about as scary as a rubber spider. Sure gave me nightmares and endless ideas on how to scare people out of their wits when I was a teen. Now? I crack up so hard I fall off the sofa. Enjoy. Oh and Blacula's ultimate fate - dying on a sunlit street as maggots squirm in his remains - is also a standout scene.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Sixty-Eight - "The Crow/Horror Hotel!"

Wacky welcomes from a weird and wild Wednesday! WE LOVE ALLITERATION HERE AT THE "100 DAYS OF HORROR" BLOG!

Yes we do.

As we move into the fall season, I find myself just turgid with excitement at the approaching
month. It's almost guaranteed to be packed with
fun and exciting events, including some haunted hayrides, a microbrew festival and - of course - my Halloween party. And all this without the added bonus of a month-long list of top bill hard hitting movies! Not a turkey in the bunch! And that just adds to my mounting Halloween excitement!

About today's entry - originally, it was just "Horror Hotel," but as I was driving into work this morning, Nine Inch Nails' cover of "Dead Souls" from "The Crow" soundtrack came on and I was swept up in freakish nostalgia for the movie. And it definitely straddles the line between horror and action, which I will discuss in detail below. Rave on Readers and thanks as usual for playing along!

The Crow (1994): Directed by Alex Proyas. Starring Brandon Lee, Ernie Hudson, Rochelle Davis and Michael Wincott.

The Skinny: Based on one of the best-selling and most popular graphic novels of all time, "The Crow" concerns musician Eric Draven, who returns from the dead a year after his murder to avenge his death, and the death of his bride-to-be.

What's Good: Recently a friend of mine said he watched the movie on television and laughed at how much he used to like it. Granted he was considerably younger than I was when I first saw it - I was in my early 20s, he was probably five - and a might more impressionable. But in my opinion, 16 years later, this is one of the best comic adaptations out there. The drama is overwrought, to say the least - it's about a ghost avenging his death, after all - but its pulp and Gothic elements coalesce into something that transcends both the average horror movie and the average action film. And it's all cemented on a riveting performance by the late Brandon Lee, son of Martial Artist Bruce Lee, who died during the production when a technician neglected to clear a squib fragment from the barrel of a prop gun. As his alter-ego, the eponymous Crow, Lee is a mask of torment and anguish. Watch his face in the scene where he fights Tin-Tin in the alley, and Laurence Mason lands a punch on his chin. Listen to his voice as he tosses rings back at pawnbroker Gideon - "Each one of these is a life - a life you helped destroy" - and you'll take measure of a young actor at the cusp of his burgeoning prime. The entire movie is also richly lensed by Dariuz Wolski, who paints the cityscape in reflected light and shadow - reminiscent of the stylized landscape of Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner." And the soundtrack - not Graeme Revell's brilliant score, which also deserves note - is packed with early-90's darlings like Stone Temple Pilots, Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine.

What's Bad: Like I said, it's pulp drama mixed with horror elements. So if you're turned off by things like spiraling Gothic cathedrals, a bleak rainy landscape and shots of a graveyard by pale moonlight, then go watch a Jim Carrey movie. I don't care what anyone else says - this one got it mostly right.

Why We like It: Okay, it isn't for everyone. In fact, it's mostly for 14-year-old goth chicks who shop at Hot Topic and read Jhonen Vasquez comic s- and I just happen to have that inner 14-year-old goth. And she likes her romance bleak. She likes her heroes tragic and flawed. And she likes all the great elements of this movie - the soundtrack and score, the lighting, the cinematography - and the way they combine in the final product. I still tear up during certain scenes in this film, especially those moments where we see the remnants of the man behind the cycle of vengeance, shown to us in tantalizing glimpses by the talented Lee. This is one of my favorites because it lifts itself above genre and works its way into your heart if you left it. Love met with a tragic end is a staple of all my favorite artists, from Billy Corgan to Edgar Allen Poe. This one - and James O'Barr's original story - are no exception.

Memorable Stuff: The scene where Draven is defenestrated and his fiancee savagely raped and beaten and left for dead stands out for one particular reason - it's the one where Michael Massee (Funboy) fires the shot that killed Lee. Despite that fact, the scene stands out as being the visceral center of Draven's agony - it's all he can remember, except for brief teasing shots of a life filled with romance and beauty. It's also the scene which precedes his transformation into the sleek killer in the white facepaint. Great stuff. Forget the sequels and just enjoy.

Horror Hotel (1960): Directed by John Llwellyn Moxley. Starring Christopher Lee, Venetia Stevenson and Betta St. John.

The Skinny: Hundreds of years after the Burnings, a witch who has escaped the ravages of time needs virgins to survive!

What's Good: This is a definite classic. Filmed in moody black and white and starring the inimitable Christopher Lee, this is one that every fan should see once, if only for its mood and atmosphere. There isn't much to say about the shoestring budget or the lack of American actors in American roles, but like I said - it's a fun film with all the right elements.

What's Bad: It's no "Psycho," to which it has often been compared. But as previously mentioned, this one stands out because of Lee and because it has some of the best lines ever - even Rob Zombie uses pieces from it in several of his songs ("Superstition, fear and jealousy" and "Burn witch, burn witch, burn witch, BURN!").

Why We Like It: See above. The whole point of this thing is to celebrate cheesiness goodness, and this one has it in spades.

Memorable Stuff: The beginning flashback where the damned cry out their allegiance to Satan as they are strapped to the post and burned alive is just fantastic. If you can find this one, get a bowl of popcorn and sit back. It's a good time.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Sixty-Seven - "Dracula AD 1972!"


Ghoulish greets to one and to all! Your humble narrator was informed today that for the remainder of this blog (this year, anyway), I will be linked to the blogging page on our mothership paper, "The Daily Local News." This is exciting because not only will the 180-plus people I post this to not read this blog, it now had the potential to not be read by thousands! Isn't that just exciting, mediocre news, everyone!?

Yes, that's right. I rule the school.

Now, on to the reason we're here today - our selection for the sixty-seventh day of the 100 Movie challenge; "Dracula AD: 1972!" This is the second to last Dracula movie in the Hammer House of Horror series and the first to feature a modern updated version of the fiend.

Thanks again for following along at home (I know some of you are doing a damned fine job of it)! I love you all! MWAH!

Dracula AD: 1972 (1972): Directed by Alan Gibson. Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Stephanie Beacham and Christopher Naeme.

The Skinny: The sixth film in the Hammer House of Horror series revolving around the seemingly unkillable Count, this movie attempts to bring the series into the present by having Dracula be revived by one of his disciples and preying on the hipsters that permeate the swinging London Underground of the early 70s.

What's Good: This film is the next to last in the series and fails to follow the previous film's ending ("Scars of Dracula") into the new film, as the others usually do. This is a fun entry in the series and although it lacks some of the more Gothic trappings of the other films, watching Drac prey on hippies is a fun time. Plus there are some "way-out" party scenes straight out of something like "Austin Powers" or "Tonight Let's All Make Love in London." Plus it returns Peter Cushing to his rightful role as Drac's arch-nemesis, Dr. Van Helsing.

What's Bad: Again, if the mythic castles and foggy moors and horse-drawn carriages of the other Dracula films is what excites and attracts you, then you will be disappointed. If you can accept that the directors were trying to beat one or two movies out of this dead horse of a series (which they did with the thriller, "The Satanic Rites of Dracula"), then enjoy this fun-time romp for what it is.

Why We Like It: It's Hammer, it's Cushing, it's Lee, and he's killing hippies. What's not to love?

Memorable Stuff: The Satanic Black Mass where one of the hipster teens is sacrificed to Dracula can once again rise from the grave, with an assist from his acolyte Alucard (that's "Dracula" spelled bacwards) is pretty damn good. Beyond that, the ending, when Drac meets his fate - as usual - at the hands of Van Helsing, is probably the highlight of the film.

Monday, September 27, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Sixty-Six - "Pet Semetary/Cat's Eye!"

Yes, you're truly missed another post yesterday, but I just had so many things to do and so many other movies to watch! Like, what can I say?

So as punishment, I will double up on today's selections - which will also continue the string of Stephen King adaptations that's been happening for days.

This coming month with truly be a challenge, because there are so many things going on, both personally and through work, and even though I love to watch horror movies this time of year in particular, it gets difficult. But I will continue on as much as possible, because believe it or not, I do enjoy the challenge.

Read on Ravers and thanks as usual!

Pet Semetary (1989): Directed by Mary Lambert. Starring Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Fred Gwynne, Miko Hughyes and Blaze Berdahl.

The Skinny: Based on Stephen King's 1982 novel, the titular "semetary" is actually one built on ancient cursed burial ground, and when newcomers the Creed family move to the Maine town of Ludlow, their lives are irrevocably affected by its call.

What's Good: This is a hard one to like, because other than Fred Gywnne (of Herman Munster fame), there are no real name actors in the movie. I keep trying to say something good here, but I am having a REAL hard fucking time. Better skip on to ...

What's Bad: There are almost as many King movies as there are books, because his work is both visual and visceral, sometimes playing on out basest fears. And of course, anytime you have a movie adaptation there are going to be displeased parties - usually those who swear by the written word and deny a different interpretation . Sometimes it works ("The Shining," "Apt Pupil") sometimes, it doesn't ... and we come to the case in point. "Pet Semetary" is probably King's most terrifying work. He delves deep into the mind of Louis Creed as he slowly unravels and decides to bury his dead toddler son in the cursed ground. The movie does not. And while that is a difficult prospect at best, director Mary Lambert doesn't even bother to try. She tries to startle us with cheap thrills - like a face rushing up out of the ground - when the reality from the novel was much worse - a gibbering, demonic face that embodied the true nature of the demonic force in the ground beyond. Even the final showdown between father and reanimated son play as silly when it should be the most terrifying moment in the movie, just like it was in the novel!

Why We Like It: I think mostly for nostalgic reasons, really; it was one of those horror movies I watched constantly on Cinemax when I was a kid, so it has a happy place memory for me. It was definitely scarier as a teen than it was as an adult, but time has not marred the terror of the novel, which I still read from time to time. I seem to be hating on this film, but in reality I do enjoy watching it on occasion. It's just fine if you haven't read the novel by the light of a streetlamp coming through the window while sleeping on your living room couch and had nightmares for weeks afterwards. Then it's just fine.

Memorable Stuff: The journey to the cemetery to bury the kid is creepy, but not as creepy as it could have been. The flashback scenes as told by Gwynne's Jud are also great, and Gwynne's performance in general is fantastic. He nails the northern Maine accent and truly embodies the character as presented in the book. It's just too damn bad his performance isn't echoed by the second rate actors around him.

Cat's Eye: (1985): Directed by Louis Teague. Starring Drew Barrymore, Robert Hays, Alan King, Candy Clark and James Woods.

The Skinny: Based on a series of Stephen King short stories - "Quitter's Inc.," and "The Ledge," and original story "The General" - this movie attempts to link the three stories by the presence of a cat who stalks in and out of various people's lives.

What's Good: Well ... shit. See, I like these anthology movies - I really do. They're short consumable bits of solid entertainment ... sometimes. This format was accomplished in a far more satisfactory format in "Creepshow," where the stories were linked via their presence in the comic book. Why they didn't stick with that format for this anthology is beyond me. Because the stories - while not terrifying - are still quite provocative and are classic 80s-era King. Not even James Woods can save this one, and who doesn't like James Woods? Even though his piece - "Quitters, Inc." - is the best of the bunch, taut with tension and paranoia, it doesn't save it from the final bad story and the stupid method of linking them together with the cat.

What's Bad: As far as horror movies go, none of the vignettes are particularly scary. And the last story - concerning the cat, a goblin and a little girl - is just plain stupid, despite great creature effects from Carlo Rambaldi. It just could have been better, and I blame hack director Louis Teague, who also butchered "Cujo."

Why We Like It: I don't. It's my least favorite of a long list of bad King movies. I'd watch "Maximum Overdrive" before I'd watch this ever again.

Memorable Stuff: When Hays comes back to the hotel to find his lover's head in a bag on top of money and forces Alan King's character to suffer the walk around the titular ledge of the second installment. And When Woods pokes an umbrella into his supposedly empty closet and instead hears a grunt from the agent hiding within to prevent him from smoking.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Sixty-Four - "Phantasm!"

It's four o'clock in the morning here and I am having a hard time falling asleep.

This isn't a new thing, actually - I have horrible sleep patterns that not even Ambien can set straight. But I think the reason I am still up tonight is because I am getting just too damn excited about Halloween!

A batch of decorations we ordered last week arrived today, and it just set me off in a bounding bout of pure All Hallow's Eve joy. We ordered some wall clings that go lovely with our Graveyard Disco theme - in fact, they are now utterly essential to the theme now. We took them out and held them up in various locations, trying to decide what goes where and when (some things have to wait until the last minute, like the .... well, let's not give it away). This, too, had me flipping and laughing hysterically - nay, maniacally! And once the family went to bed, it was all over. Like some filthy inner city junkie on a crack binge, except my crack was a rubber severed head and a foam chain; a fake plastic oversized butcher's knife coated in fake blood; a resin sign that reads "MORGUE" and a fake severed leg. It was blissful. I threw the "Bram Stoker's Dracula" DVD in the xBox and set about taking pictures of my madness (which I will soon post, but not this noche, kiddies), and arranging a few other collages of skulls, candles and whatnot both for pictures and to help generate ideas for the decorations in general.

And now, here I sit - my Halloween crack binge is over and I am spent. But all that sweet, sweet adrenaline and Halloween crack (not to mention like three Pepsi Throwbacks) is still coursing through my veins despite the fact that the body is no longer willing to go along with this behavior. But the mind is still sharp and the fingers are still nimble. The eyes are swimming and the ass is aching from this shit-ass unpadded wooden chair ... but the mind - and hopefully the wit and the insight - remains large and in charge.

Also large and in charge is the towering menace of today's film selection - Angus Scrimm from Doon Coscarelli's legendary "Phantasm" film series. Read on, you Ravers and play along with your Home Game Version, courtesy of The Price is Right! I, I mean ...

Yeah. Right.

Phantasm (1979): Directed by Don Coscarelli. Starring Angus Scrimm, A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Bill Thornbury and Pat Roman.

The Skinny: Reviled in its time but now considered a cult classic, "Phantasm" follows two brothers living alone after their parents die in a car crash. When a series of strange deaths hits their small town, their investigations lead them to the local mausoleum and its creepy owner, "The Tall Man." When they step foot in the bizarre building, however, they become entangled with forces beyond their wildest nightmares.

What's Good: This is the second Don Coscarelli film on the list, after the inimitable "Bubba Ho Tep," and is the apotheosis of the low-budget cult film. As we've pointed out on this blog time and time again, that's a sticky wicket - it means that you either appreciate the low-budget or yo don't And if you don't, hoo boy you had better stay away from this one. On the other side of that coin, for a mere $300,000 (a lot in 1979, for sure) Coscarelli cooks up some decent special effects - in particular, those insane silver spheres that race down hallways and drill into people's heads. Man, I gotta move on to the next section for everything else I wanna say. So let's get on with ...

What's Bad: Oh dear god, plenty. While the Coscarelli-penned script is jam-packed with ideas, the actors aren't up to the challenge of ... well, acting. Plus, with much of the action taking place outside and night, the lighting is absolutely dreadful and, at times, nonexistent. I remember renting this on VHS as a teenager and when I watched in on my small set in my room, I could barely make out what the hell it was I was supposed to see. I thought it was from the tape being overviewed ... turns out to be a bit of that, and the goddamned shitty lighting.

Why We Like It: It has that certain naive charm that so many independent horror films do. Like I said, Coscarelli is ambitious and full of ideas, and that makes his movies fun. Yes, the acting is reprehensible and the lighting director should be dragged into the street and shot (actually, I think Coscarelli himself is the lighting director if I am not mistaken, along with about fifty other hats), but it is still a fun and dark romp. And Angus Scrimm is one evil, menacing motherfucker, He doesn't have much to say or do - he lets his strange dwarf monsters and silver globes do all his work - but his visage alone is enough to give you the willies.

Memorable Stuff: Aside from Scrimm's performance, the best part for me was when the intrepid teens find a room with a portal in it, and when slips inside he catches a glimpse of a nightmare world with a fierce red sky and a line of evil black dwarves and steel coffins and ... man, just see it for yourselves; it's a tantalizing glimpse at a much larger universe, and that's quality entertainment. There's also a twist ending that is a shocker and an undercurrent of absence and loss that can be a bit of a downer at times. It's still worth your time, however.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Sixty-Three - "The Shining!"

Good morning and rise and shine!

I'm off work today so I figured I'd get the jump on today's post. But the fact is, I was so eager to discuss this film that I started writing it last night as I watched "Thinner." Which, i am sorry to say, was better than I remembered. That is why I should actually blog AFTER the film. Which I am doing next time.

Anyway, today's post is already long because I couldn't wait to talk about it! Read on Ravers and thank you again for playing along!

The Shining (1980): Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall, Scatman Crothers, Philip Stone and Danny Lloyd

The Skinny: Perhaps the most well-known of the Stephen King movies, "The Shining" concerns the Torrance Family and the horror they experience at the menacing Overlook Hotel. The problems there are only made worse by the strange psychic powers possessed by their son, Danny.

What's Good: This film was made by perhaps my favorite director of all time, Stanley Kubrick. Never one to be tied down to any one kind of film, Kubrick found his voice in a wide variety of subjects, from sci-fi to period drama to war films. And this was his take on the horror movie. But rather than make a straightforward adaptation of what is perhaps King's defining work in the genre, Kubrick instead crafted a psychological thriller where blood gushes from elevators, a father breaks down and succumbs to invisible temptations, and the party in the ballroom never seems to end. True, he robbed King's story of many of the elements that made it scary; the supernatural element of the hotel itself is played down at best, whereas in the novel, the hotel was as much a character as the rest of the living cast. But by doing that, Kubrick also stripped the story down to a core theme of the book - the idea of a father who can no longer control himself and by turns, can no longer fulfill his role as a provider. The film is anchored around the performance of Jack Nicholson, in one of his greatest roles. It's hard to image the strict Kubrick - notorious for retakes, long shots and for making incredible demands of his actors - allowing Nicholson to do what he does best, which is unhinged maniacal ranting. But we get it, and in spades, and Nicholson is both terrifying and hilarious, sometimes in the same instant. The rest of the cast is just as solid, from Scatman Crothers to regular Kubrick cast member Philip Stone as the former caretaker, Delbert Grady, who hacked his family to pieces years before.

What's Bad: It's long, just like every Kubrick film. And by the end, when things become insane and disjointed, it's difficult to stick with the film because it seems as if Kubrick loses control right along with his characters. Also, while I love Shelly Duvall, she (and Kubrick) turn wife Wendy into a screeching harridan that leaves you thinking it might be okay for her husband to smack her with that baseball bat. If only once. Just to shut her up, you know? I kid, but the truth is Kubrick and Duvall fought constantly on the set and if you watch the special edition DVD with a documentary by Kubrick's daughter, you get to see Duvall breaking down into tears on more than one occasion. And as is also typical for Kubrick's films, there is a bit of a pacing problem. Kubrick's best films play like a fever dream, where the actors almost seem hypnotized (perhaps best seen in his final film, the sexually charged "Eyes Wide Shut), and there are scenes in "The Shining" where you wonder if maybe everyone is on valium. Then Nicholson gets to cut loose, and all is well. He also shifts the main character from psychic Danny to father Jack, who is driven slowly insane, but for what reason, we're not exactly sure. In the novel, the hotel winds up using the father to get to the son, so absorb his psychic powers into itself and its spectral denizens. By turns, Danny's power is instead used as a link to Crothers' character and as a foreshadowing element to he horrors to come. Kubrick doesn't even bother to explain to us that Tony is Danny's future self ("Anthony" is his middle name, not revealed until the final moments of the novel). It's widely known that King strongly disliked the film, but he's also said he doesn't care about any of his film adaptations. Which is bullshit, buddy, but whatever ...

Why We Like It: Like nearly every one of his films, this movie was at first reviled by the critics who now celebrate it as a classic of the horror genre. It's Kubrick, plain and simple. And by that I mean it's packed with all the things I love about his movies - the long takes, the perfectly balanced shots, the hypnotic pacing (yes, I love that part, too). And in the middle of all that is a fantastic nuanced performance by Nicholson and an eerie score from longtime Kubrick collaborator Wendy Carlos. But the point of this blog is to answer the questions: do I like it? And is it scary? And the answer to both of those questions is a resounding yes. When I first read the book, it scared me shitless. And so too with the film. Kubrick manages to summon some very disconcerting images - the aforementioned river of blood, the evil little dead girls (not twins - Ullman says they were "8 and 10" at the beginning of the movie), and of course the final scenes of Nicholson grunting and screaming like and animal as he tracks his son through the snowy hedge maze, his former status as a man of language completely removed in his final madness. These things evoke real terror in me, and are disturbing on many levels. No, it isn't the epic tale of a haunted hotel (that was fully explored in the 90s remake, which King himself said he loved), but it is still an effective chiller and one for the history books.

Memorable Stuff: Where. To. Start. Most of my favorite scenes are the ones where Nicholson is in full-on psycho mode, ranting and raving at his wife as she meekly swings a baseball at him. The dialogue is so damn good I could sit here all day writing line after line from memory - "Wendy, darling, light of my life ... I'm not going to kill you! You didn't let me finish my sentence! I said, I'm not going to hurt you. I'm just going to bash your brains in! I'm going to bash them right the fuck in!" - but I will spare you of that. The other great scene is when Nicholson meets with Stone's character in the bathroom after a spilled drink. I won't quote that evocative dialogue here - no sir, I won't - but it is a lively and hilarious exchange once again bolstered by Nicholson's incredible performance. Some people reduce his performance to the ranting scenes on the stairs, but it is a much deeper characterization than that. Give Nicholson credit here, because he is far more than just a screaming lunatic. Look deep into his eyes and there is something cold and detached there - and that's just fucking terrifying.

100 Days of Horror Day Sixty-Two - "Thinner!"

Hey hey! How is everyone tonight? Sorry it's a late entry again, but I had a busy day today and also had a wonderful dinner with my lovely wife at a local establishment called the Mendenhall Inn. It's kinda swank, which just makes us a big fucking deal.

No, no, I kid, I kid ... we DID go there as guests of an organization here in Chester County called "Good Neighbors Home Repair Ministry." I met them through covering their summer youth camp, and since then I've covered several of their events, including this fund raiser. And while I am not a man of faith myself, these people move me with their efforts to help homeowners down on their luck to keep their homes safer, dryer and warmer - for no charge.

I know this has nothing to do with horror movies, but I just wanted to pass their name along, and this is my place to blab, so ... there it is.


Today's feature - while reasonably enjoyable - is the opposite of yesterday's finely crafted tale of suspense. This is Stephen King at his lowest. And the movie is as mixed a bag of tricks as the novella is. Watch and try to enjoy ... "THINNER!"

Thinner (1996): Directed by Tom Holland. Starring Robert John Burke, Joe Mantenga, Lucida Jenney, Michael Constantine and Kari Wuher.

The Skinny: Based on a Stephen King book published under his pseudonym Richard Bachman, "Thinner" find s selfish, overweight lawyer who uses his influence to get out of killing an old gypsy woman in a hit-and-run now at the mercy of a vengeful gypsy curse.

What's Good: Frankly, this is one of the most faithful King adaptations, but at the same time, it's definitely no "The Shinning" or "The Dead Zone." It's not even the mildly unscary "Pet Semetary." It's a bad misstep by director Tom Holland, who gave us the incredible "Fright Night." That said ... there is a certain enjoyable charm to the film, if only because it wallows in it crapulence. King used Bachman to tell the stories too silly or too provocative for him to tell directly. The book isn't meant to change lives or inspire - it's meant to be pulpy and jerky and commit literary homicide. And the movie pretty much does the same. It's offensive to fat people, gypsies, lawyers, Italian Americans and the entire white race in general. It's also very funny and quite disturbing in places, so I am definitely torn.

What's Bad: The above litany of offenses stands. I mean, it's so goddamn Old World racist - the filthy gypsy clan who comes to town and spreads chaos and handing out curses like they're bible tracts. It's something I'm sure the Roma people loathe. But that said, I love that gypsy curse shit. Without the gypsy curse, there'd be no "Angel," no "The Wolfman." So this is a movie you can take or leave, but should maybe see once. Maybe. Also, Kari Wuhur? As a gypsy girl? With a slingshot? No. Please god, no.

WHy We LIke It: It's trashy and I like trashy. There are no redeemable performances, the script is so-so, and the direction is almost absent. But it's King, so ... I guess it's okay?

Memorable Stuff: Like the best King stories, the end is always a killer. So the final five minutes of the movie are actually the best, but in case you haven't seen it, I will spare you that spoiler. It is quite memorable, however, and classic King. Or Bachman. Whichever.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Sixty-One - "The Dead Zone!"

Yes, it's true there was no blog yesterday and no movie either. And let me tell you why on both counts.

First, yesterday's movie was "The Signal," from 2007. I have never seen this film but a close friend has recommended that I watch it several times - in fact, he provided me with the copy I intended to watch. Now, I have been thinking about the format of this blog and what I plan to do with it next year (when I will undertake the challenge again). And it seems pointless to write a blog about a film I know nothing about when the point of the blog is to give my opinion on what is scary. So, for next year and from now on, I will not blog in advance about a film I've never seen - I will instead view the film and then blog about it. If that means two entries in a day for this first run through, then so be it. Next year's blog will be comprised entirely of films I have never seen and the blog will take the form of a recommendation. I will watch "The Signal" at one point and blog about it, but at this point I am unable to say when.

Second, there just wasn't time to watch a movie yesterday anyway, so ... god forbid I have a life.

Okay, now on to today's flick, yet another of director David Cronenberg's classics - 1983's "The Dead Zone!" It kicks off a three-day marathon of Stephen King movies and they're all good! So if you have this one, I sure hope you can watch it, because I think it's rather fucking great! Thanks again for reading!

The Dead Zone (1983): Directed by David Cronenberg. Starring Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerrit and Martin Sheen.

The Skinny: Based on Stephen King's 1979 novel of the same name, "The Dead Zone" follows teacher Johnny Smith after he wakes from a five year coma with the power to see into people's past and their future. With that knowledge, he also finds he can change the present to affect how the future will unfold. When he encounters an ambitious politician who will one day "press the button" and initiate nuclear war, he must decide what to do to prevent a world-wide disaster.

What's Good: Got to give it to David Cronenberg - he knows how to scare and instill fear without the assistance of gibbering assassins springing from the shadows or buckets of blood and gore (something else he is good at). No, Cronenberg knows how to seize on our fears of the unknown and of the dread many experience when their lives are laid bare before a stranger. John Smith's power is absolutely terrifying - he can touch us and see our petty desires, can know more about us than we know ourselves. That's true, existential fear. And the more he uses his power, the more physically debilitated he becomes - the limp is more pronounced, his shoulders become slumped and his gait is long and loping. The power is killing him by inches, and Walken plays it beautifully, his face a mask of pain and fear as he struggles with the knowledge that's been forced on him. It's a great performance in a great film that stands the test of time, even if it plays on those 1980's fears of thermo-nuclear war. Madmen still have bombs today, don't they?

What's Bad: Not much. I am not Brooke Adam's biggest fan, but she does a fine job here as both Walken's romantic foil and as the source of his later obsession at recapturing his previous life. My only problem is the score at times - written by Michael Kamen and not by long-time Cronenberg composer Howard Shore. It's a little jarring at times, relying on a sudden string surge that is dimly reminiscent of the strings from "Psycho," and other times Kamen relies on a full orchestral score when sparse instrumentation would have sufficed.

Why We Like It: I think I could watch Walken have a bowel movement and find it entertaining. It's refreshing to see a performance of such depth in a film that sells itself as a horror/ suspense/drama. And the rest of the cast is also pitch perfect, including the always steady Tom Skerritt and the insane Martin Sheen as would-be button pusher Greg Stilson. It would be difficult not to enjoy this work.

Memorable Stuff: Although Walken is great fun to watch just about every second he's onscreen, the best scene in the film is when he finally meets Sheen's character at a political rally and gets to shake his hand (contact is a must for Smith's power to work). The ensuing vision where Sheen is ranting at his cabinet to allow him to initiate the attack ("Now you put your goddamn hand on that scanning screen or I will hack it off and do it for you!") is just intense. Some of Stilson's elaborate background is lost in translation from the novel, but Sheen lets us see just what we're dealing with - an abject madman bent on destruction.

Monday, September 20, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Fifty-Nine - "Plan 9 From Outer Space!"

Greetings from Mars on this ghoulish Monday afternoon. A late one today because as usual, Monday is hellishly awful - filled with work, caffeine, naps and meetings out the wazoo.

But today's film is a doozy and one I love deeply. Enjoy the worst film of all time tonight and thanks for playing!

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959): Directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr. Starring Tor Johnson, Mailia Numi, John "Bunny" Breckinridge, Tom Keene and Bela Lugosi.

The Skinny: Voted the worst movie ever made by the worst director ever, "Plan 9" is a campy romp into the mind of a maniac with a love of filmmaking. The plot - what there is of it - centers on an impending invasion from outer space that includes resurrecting the bodies of the recently dead as a means to take over the planet. There are some cops, some weird space people, and a rocket ship. And a guy that looks like a vampire. And Vampira.

What's Good: Oy vey, what a loaded question! Seriously, there isn't much "good" about the film. Director Ed Wood - the centerpiece of the Tim Burton film of the same name - was infamous for casting shitty actors, using shitty sets with shitty lighting and using shitty first takes without even bothering with a second take. So, I mean when you roll like that, your results wind up ... well, shitty. But there is the proverbial gold in them thar turds, folks. You have to tough it out if you want to reap the rewards - such as Bunny Breckenridge's saucy alien overlord, or the inane dialogue rendered unintelligible by the monstrous Tor Johnson - but it is seriously worth it. Don't expect to be scared, no sir - the graves are cardboard and the "monster" isn't exactly monstrous. It's camp - pure yucks the whole way through. Wood would be proud.

What's Bad: Shit, see above. And add the fact that since Lugosi died before the actual filming began, his part was mostly performed by the director's chiropractor who hid his utter unlikeness of Lugosi behind a cape the entire film. Lugosi's part was filmed without the benefit of sound some months before he died as a reel of "test footage" with no real project in mind.

Why We Like It: See all of the above, we LOVE shitty campy movies! And Woods' version of camp is particularly delicious!

Memorable Stuff: Hm, I wouldn't exactly call it "memorable," but the flying saucers over Washington DC that are actually hub caps and paper plates glued together is just audacious and astounding and awful and wonderful all at the same fucking time. I love this flick. I love it good.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Fifty-Eight - "The Creature from the Black Lagoon!"

Yes, that's right - we're skipping today's scheduled film for this infinitely better film. I ain't gonna double up or anything because frankly I am ahead of the game since I've been doubling up on Stephen King films off and on, so I think I'm good to go for being on track.

It took awhile for this damn movie to download, but it is worth every second because this is one of the great classics. I hope some of you at home can play along!

The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954): Directed by Jack Arnold. Starring Richard Carlson, Richard Denning and Julia Adams.

The Skinny: A group of geologists on expedition in the Amazon find proof of a missing link in the evolutional chain - a mix of half man, half amphibian. Things go bad for the group, however, when a living specimen of the long lost species turns out to be not so lost after all!

What's Good: This is one of the greats, folks. One of the Universal Classic Movie Monsters - along with Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and the Wolfman - and it endures to this very day. This was actually one of the first 3-D movies - the second, in fact - so there's a lot of direct at the screen action, like swimming and harpooning. But it doesn't detract from the movie in any way - in fact it enhances its inherent cheesiness. And for the time, the underwater photography (and there is a lot of it) is very well done, with long stretches of Gill Man swimming along the bottom of the river - with no air bubbles streaming out behind him. It was well performed and well executed and that's why people still love it over 50 years later.

What's Bad: The only thing that I don't like about it is the 3-D effects - like I said, it doesn't necessarily detract from the movie, but it's obvious that what you're seeing is an attempt to catch the eye.

Wy We Like It: Like I said, it's a classic. The creature is cool, the cast is great, the "special effects" are also keen for the era, so there is nothing to hate here. Just pure 50s camp film entertainment.

Memorable Stuff: Many things! From the underwater battles to the kidnapping scene to the final shots in the cave, this is a fun, good-time movie, even down to the very "Jaws"-like score (even though this predates the movie by 20 years).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Fifty-Seven - "The House of Usher!"

Well yesterday was a fuck-up but not by any fault of my own.

I have been trying to download "Creature from the Black Lagoon" for days now and it just keeps stalling out. So I left my computer running yesterday in hopes of capturing it by midnight but it just didn't fucking happen. So no movie, no post yesterday. BUT - the damn thing says it's almost done - 65 percent in fact - so if and when it does, I shall watch it and blog it.

I am, however, in anticipation of today's 50-year-old classic, Roger Corman's "House of Usher!"

Stay tuned for a special update from "100 Days" in the next few days!

House of Usher (1960): Directed by Roger Corman. Starring Vincent Price, Mark Damon and Myrna Fahey.

The Skinny: Based on Edgar Allen Poe's famous story, this film is based on the eponymous mansion where the strange Usher family has resided for ages. Now, however, their reality is crashing down around them as an ancient family curse comes to horrid fruition.

What's Good: One of Corman's earliest films for American International, this classic sees him cutting his teeth and creating what he would soon be well known for - crafting a suitably creepy atmosphere. It doesn't follow the story to the letter of course, but it makes for an interesting study regardless. And frankly, just about anything with Vincent Price in it makes me swoon.

What's Bad: Again, it is not a faithful retelling of the story, so for the Poe Purists (and we are out there, indeed), it falls short of the mark. But for those of us who enjoy a fun romp with silly, overly dramatic acting and shitty sets, then dive right in!

Why We Like It: Like I said, it's got atmosphere if nothing else. You get the sensation that the weirdness at the Usher Mansion has been going on for quite some time, and Price plays up the incestuous nature of his relationship with his sister with subtle, guilt-ridden glances and furtive gestures. It's a great piece that deserves some attention some 50 years later.

Memorable Stuff: The final scenes where the curse comes full circle and the house breaks asunder and sinks into the swamp are arguably the best scenes in the movie, although as previously mentioned, any of Price's screentime is worthy of admission alone.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Fifty-Five - "Firestarter/1408!"

Hey hey folks, a little change in the lineup today - instead of the planned Creature Feature, "The Creature from the Black Lagoon," we are instead watching another Stephen King drive-in double feature, "Firestarter" and "1408."

The problem is that I thought I had "Creature" but it turns out no. However I am in the process of downloading it as we speak so it should be good to go for tomorrow!

Personally, I like the King double feature bills! I like most of his movies - in fact, there's a three or four day King marathon coming soon.

So thanks as always for reading! We WILL be watching "Creature" tomorrow, so tune in and play along!

Firestarter (1984): Directed by Mark. L Lester. Starring Drew Barrymore, Davod Keith, George C. Scott, Moses Gunn, Art Carney, Freddie Jones and Louise Fletcher.

The Skinny: Based on Stephen King's 1980 book of the same name, the eponymous "firestarter" is 10-year-old Charlie, a young girl with the power of pyrokinesis, who is being pursued by agents of the government whose program spawned hers - and many others' - powers.

What's Good: This is one of the so-so King movies, in my humble opinion. They tried REAL hard, I'll grant them that - they cast George C. Scott, who is always a smash, and Drew Barrymore at the height of her 80s popularity. So what went wrong? Okay, wait this is supposed to be what's good ... well, Scott as I said is always great, even when he's chewing the scenery. So what makes this movie work is the relationship between his assassin, John Rainbird, and Barrymore's Charlie. Once she's been captured, Rainbird insinuates his way into her life by pretending to be a sympathetic housecleaner. It's creepy to watch, because the relationship takes on an odd sheen - almost like he's grooming her, when in fact he plans to kill her (and the line Scott delivers when he tells us about that goal is absolutely fucking chilling).

What's Bad: The movie isn't sure if it's supposed to be a drama or an action thriller, so it kind of fails at both. And it also fails at being a "horror" movie as much of the existential fear the characters experience in the novel are absent in the movie. You can rest assured, however, that this movie is found in the "horror" section of your favorite movie provider. And as usual with movies from the 80s, there's poor lighting in the night and street scenes and not-so-great sound at times, too. But it's still worth a look, if for no reason that to watch Barrymore exercise the chops that one day made her a superstar. It's also funny to note that she was (allegedly) smoking weed, drinking champaign and snorting coke at that age, so you wonder in those scenes where she's sweating if it is indeed the heat of the fires she's starting that's making her perspire or the line she just had in her trailer.

Why We Like It: Like I said, Scott is a powerhouse as the ponytailed assassin Rainbird, one of King's most enigmatic characters of all time.

Memorable Stuff: The best scene in the film is when Charlie and her dad seek refuge at an old couple's farmhouse that quickly erupts into a conflagration when agents from The Shop show up to capture them. When Charlie unleashes her pyrokinetic powers, cars explode and flip upside down and men burst into spontaneous flame. It is one of the movie's most effective stunt scenes.

1408 (2007) Directed by Mikael Halstrom. Starring John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson and Mary McCormack.

The Skinny: Based on a short story from King's "Everything's Eventual" compilation, "1408" is the number of a room in the Dolphin Hotel in New York that is supposedly the most haunted place one could imagine. Enter Mike Enslin - author, skeptic and haunted house debunker. But what he experiences in the room is far beyond the cold spots and specters he's encountered previously.

What's Good: This is actually an effective thriller with a few moments of true fear. Much of the film - in fact, the majority of it - is just Cusack in a room dealing with horror after horror. And Enslin is one of King's great flawed characters - a writer with a dark past filled with death and tragedy. And it's those very events that come back to haunt him once he's securely locked in Room 1408. Because like the dead tree in the Dagobah bog where Luke encounters his father/Darth Vader, the only horror in Room 1408 is what you take with you.

What's Bad: There is a much dark and more satisfying ending where Cusack's character dies, but instead we get Samuel L. Jackson looking off into the distance, nodding and saying "Well done, Mr. Enslin. Well Done." It is one of the worst pat endings I have EVER seen in my life. And if you haven't seen it, fear not - I haven't ruined the ending for you. No, King has one last horror in store for you at the bitter end, because he likes to stick it in deep and break it off.

Why We Like It: Cusack carries the whole damn picture and he is in fine cocky form for much of it. The movie gets a little tedious at about the 2/3 mark, however, and you can get a little tired of being hit with spooky thing after spooky thing. It's no "The Mist<" and it's no "The Dead Zone," but younger viewers who cut their horror teeth on "Saw" and "Hostel" need some of teh special effects and gritty violence more than a deep character meditation like "Dead Zone" or "The Shining," so they're probably love this movie.

Memorable Stuff: I don't want to give too much away here, but Cusack's run-ins with his deceased daughter are chilling and dark. Much of the rest of the movie is a study on how much one man can take before what he's experiencing changes him at his core.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Fifty-Four - "The Blob!"

Spooktacular salutations my minions!

I apologize for the brevity of yesterday's post, but right in the middle of writing the blog I started to experience a severe allergy attack. I am not sure why - the only thing that usually creates that kind of reaction in me is seafood. Which I have had none of. I was at a farm for a while yesterday, but this was hours later, so it's a mystery, folks - one for Scooby and his gang of weirdo friends.

Almost as much of a mystery as the origin of the creature that is the focus of tonight's feature - "The Blob!" I love this movie, as I do many of the sci-fi/horror films of the 50s and 60s, so this will be a special treat!

I hope you all get to enjoy this bizarre slice of cinema and thanks again for reading!

The Blob (1958): Directed by Irwin Yeaworth. Starring Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Earl Rowe, Olin Howland and Elbert Smith.

The Skinny: When a teen couple finds an old man staggering down the road with a mysterious goo eating away at his hand, it leads them into a night of extraterrestrial horror as the titular Blob grows larger and larger, eating its way through their small town.

What's Good: This is a drive-in classic, one with a tone that many other films have tried to duplicate with diminishing results. Featuring the late Steve McQueen in one of his earliest film roles (yet to find the success he would on television with "Wanted: Dead of Alive"), "The Blob" is a campy romp from start to finish. The dialogue, the acting and the special effects culminate to create something unique and fun and interesting.

What's Bad: Movies like this fall into that "you either get it or you don't" category. So if you don't like cheesy 50s horror films, go rent one of the "Saw" movies or something more modern. Or maybe try the remake from 1987 - it's not too bad and it stars Kevin Dillon. Or maybe hang around for Rob Zombie's remake scheduled for next year. That's BOUND to be a hoot.

Why We Like It: Like I said, I love it. My wife recently purchased the Criterion Collection version, which was transfered using a Datacine that produces a high-definition transfer from 35mm prints and the color is fantastic. Real life doesn't look this good. And besides that, the movie is still just as fun and as thrilling as it was when I first saw it as a child. Good times.

Memorable Stuff: Obviously the scene where the teenagers run screaming from the movie theatre - which happens to be The Colonial Theatre, located in Phoenixville and the site of an annual "Blob-fest," where people are encouraged to reenact the scene. In fact the entire movie was filmed in and around Chester County, including Valley Forge and Downingtown. This whole movie is great, so I have no complaints whatsoever.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Fifty -Three - "Frogs!"


Well it's been yet another busy-assed Tuesday, but I think I have time now to compose a thought, wipe my ass and enjoy a drink and a smoke whilst I do.

The Challenge chunders on and on and on, like a bad Journey song. And I chunder on as well, in spite of a busy upcoming autumn season

Tonight's film is a real winner, and by winner I mean a total loser. Watch "Frogs" if you can stand it and thanks again for your patronage.

Frogs (1972) Directed by George McGowan. Starring Sam Elliot, Adam Roark and Joan van Ark.

The Skinny: This is one outrageous fucking premise. A rich southern family who exhibit regular bouts of cruelty to the environment find themselves at nature's mercy as an onslaught of swamp animals take their revenge, lead by an army of .... FROGS!

What's Good: I ain't for sure. Not even Sam Elliot can save this turd, although it is good for a few laughs when the frogs appear to croak a man to death.

What's Bad: Everything,

Why We Like It: I don't.

Memorable Stuff; Aforementioned croaking.

(NOTE: I am not feeling well, as you may be able to tell. I am experiencing an allergy attack of some kind.)

100 Days of Horror Day Fifty -Three -

Monday, September 13, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Fifty -Two - "Silent Hill!"

Well we're past the halfway mark and it's all downhill from here - literally.

And let's not forget that Day Fifty-Two of the Challenge means that there are only 48 days left until Halloween!

And with that, I have very little else to say. Today's movie is one of those video game flicks, but it has a decidedly horrific edge. I hope you enjoy "Silent Hill," and thanks for reading.

Silent Hill (2006): Directed by Christophe Gans. Starring Radha Mitchell, Laurie Holden, Sean Bean, Alice Krige and Jodelle Ferdland.

The Skinny: Based on a series of immensely popular survival horror games of the same name, "Silent Hill" follows a mother in search of her adopted daughter's strange and tragic past. Her search takes her to the town of Silent Hill, where reality shifts at the sound of an air raid signal and the town's ancient history affects all who enter its realm.

What's Good: For the most part - I think the "Resident Evil" titles aside, most video game adaptations pretty much suck. Usually it's because the director, in an effort to make a sound plot, changes or borrows elements from the source to create something that barely resembles the original ("Super Mario Bros.") or one that is just so ridiculous that it isn't even worth your time ("Houses of the Dead.") Not having ever played any of the games in the franchise, I was not jaded going into the film, and that's a good thing. Because this is actually a decent movie - it's edgy, atmospheric and at times scary without the jarring BOO! scares so frequent in today's horror flicks. The movie doea a great job at recreating some of the creatures from the video game, actually embellishing on them and making them even scarier than before. The thing about the movie that works most for me is the way things just suddenly appear along with the dimensional shift. And each of the monsters are a psychological manifestation of the young girl's fears and trauma. This is a film that rewards with consecutive viewings because there is just so damn much to see.

What's Bad: THE ENDING! I mean, I understand video game logic and that everything isn't supposed to resolve in a neat little package. But I swear this ending defies its own logic and ruins the rest of the film for me. Also, Sean Bean (Boromir from "Lord of the Rings") is underused - in fact, you barely see his ass and when you do, it's just for him to brood and struggle to cover his accent. Other than that, it's not a bad flick at all.

Why We Like It: It's dark, it's moody and the characters are flawed and tragic. It has all the makings of a classic gothic horror tale, except for the hideous pat ending. The special effects truly compliment the action and are used to perfect chilling effect - the way certain things move, as if every twitch causes them mortal pain. It's a good way to spend two hours. Just dont' mind the very beginning and the bitter end and you'll be okay.

Memorable Stuff: The scene where Radha Mitchell confronts a group of faceless nurses who move when light hits them is downright disconcerting. The nurses are again a symbol of the girl's physical pain and discomfort coupled with the idea that those causing her pain are faceless entities without concern. Yeah, that's scary fucking shit right there.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Fifty-One - "Sleepaway Camp!"

Usually, I like to get my weekend posts up nice and early and even watch the film early too. But today was filled with rain and work, so I slept in and took my time doing everything else. Including this thing.

But here I am, coffee (almost) in hand and ready to dispense my creamy wisdom all over your eager, upturned faces. Aw yeah bitch.

Today's film is a return to the 80s slasher genre with the utterly disturbing "Sleepaway Camp." I hope you all have this one to play along, because it almost defies description. And if you haven't seen it, I guess I should say that a spoiler alert lies somewhere ahead. READ ON RAVERS!

Sleepaway Camp (1983): Directed by Robert Hiltzik. Starring Felissa Rose, Michael Kellin, Katherine Kamhi, Paul DiAngelo and Karen Fields.

The Skinny: Released in the heyday of the slasher film genre, "Camp" follows the mold of the unseen killer picking off victims one by one until the final brutal showdown. In this case, however, the victims are kids at the titular sleepaway summer camp, and the ending is perhaps one of the most shocking you will ever see.

What's Good: This is definitely one of those horror movies that you should only see if you understand the whole 80s movie thing; you know, that thing where you have to appreciate it for its utter awfulness. If you grasp this concept, then this can be an enjoyable experience. Like anything that is formulaic - from an episode of "House" to the "Star Wars" movies - there are things you expect from slasher films and "Sleepaway Camp" delivers them all - the violence from the killer's perspective, the cycle of vengeance, the absurdity of the deaths, the notion that anyone left alive could be the killer - and in spades. There is nothing particularly redeemable about the performances - it's packed with unknowns who went on to remain unknown - although Felissa Rose carried her role as Angela for a number of sequels and right into the horror movie festival circuit. And while the script is so routine it's painful at times, there is a disturbing sexual undercurrent that is essential to the impact of the ending. It deals with homosexuality and sexual imprinting and some other ideas that are far too much for a formulaic slasher flick to EVER get into.

What's Bad: As I have said many times before, this is an early 80s independent horror film and it shows. Bad lighting, no cinematography to speak of, shitty actors spouting shittier dialogue and an absurd premise that we're supposed to swallow from Frame One. That said, it also can be charming for those very reasons. So for the record, this entry into the slasher genre is no better or no worse than any other.

Why We Like It: See above.

Memorable Stuff: Shall I spoil the ending? Maybe I shouldn't. Maybe it's better if you don't know. But let me tell you, it is a kicker. Add to that some homoerotic skinny dipping and a few gay dreams and you have yourself some damn kind of a movie or another.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Fifty - "The Mist!"

Yes, it was bound to happen - twice! I missed both yesterday's blog and feature film but with good reason. I had to run around all day to pick up a tux, attend a rehearsal dinner and also my regular daily activities. And then finally, the copy of "House of Wax" that I have looks like it has been used as a hockey puck. The underside is so scratched the xBox won't even

I have to say, I am not too upset about it - I hate Paris Hilton.

But ... I loves me some Stephen King! And what a perfect film for the halfway mark, too!

After "The Shining," this may be my favorite King film. So I hope you can enjoy "The Mist" today. I am watching it this morning to accommodate the wedding I am in this afternoon. Enjoy!

The Mist (2008): Directed by Frank Darabont. Starring Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden, Marcia Gay Harden and Andre Braugher.

The Skinny: Based on Stephen King’s “Skeleton Crew” novella of the same name, and directed by frequent King collaborator Frank Darabont, “The Mist” follows a group of people trapped in a grocery store after the titular mist rolls into town – and with it, creatures of a weird and disturbing nature.

What’s Good: As I said a while back, this is one of the best horror movies of the past 20 years, and I stand by that opinion. Because what is really scary to us? Do we really fear Freddy Kreuger or Jason Vorhees? No, we’re terrified of cancer, old age, death … and in many circumstances, the unknown. And that’s what this movie and its bank of creepy mist is about – the unknown. The unknown causes people to break down and panic, to the point of believing the rantings of a religious lunatic who thinks of the mist and its beasties as the herald of the endtimes. The unknown causes factions to appear among the 30-or so survivors in the store – the rational people and the ones swept sup in Marcia Gay Harden’s Ms. Carmody’s religious fervor. And it is the fear of the unknown that causes Jane’s character to make a horrible sacrifice in the end that is almost guaranteed to break your cold fucking heart.

What’s Bad: Frankly, some of the special effects are not so good, particularly in the CGI department. But from what I understand, that is somewhat on purpose, since Darabont claims he was trying for that 50s-era monster movie motif – to the point of wanting to release it in black and white. In fact there is a special edition DVD of the film with a black and white version included on a second disk. Also, some of the characters are stock characters, but that is actually a King signpost – religious nuts and backwoods rednecks populate just about every one of his books, and “The Mist” is no exception.

Why We Like It: Like I said, I love this movie; it’s in my all-time top ten. There are moments of true horror, especially when you catch a glimpse of a lobster-clawed monstrosity through the mist as it cleaves a man in half, or as the survivors make a valiant run at the end and spy a six-legged creature so massive it towers in the air just out of sight. The cast all do a fantastic job selling the material, too, especially Thomas Jane and Laurie Holden (Marita Covarubias of “X-Files” fame). And the always steady Marcia Gay Harden takes a typical King archetype and pans the shit for pure insane gold. Depending on your view, her Ms. Carmody will either have you hurling the remote at the screen in disgust or dropping to your knees to follow her into Armageddon. Either way, it is a compelling movie – true, it’s no “Shawshank” or “Green Mile” – two other Darabont-helmed King adaptations – but it is a solid entry in the genre and in the director’s milieu. And the end … oh my god, the end. In the original story, the survivors drive on until they pick a distant radio stations – a note of hope that the mist hasn’t spread to the whole country. But in Darabont’s movie … dear god, let’s just say that it is a nightmarish conclusion that is simply just … horrific.

Memorable Stuff: The aforementioned creature that looms over them in the fog during their escape is – in my view – the creepiest visual of the movie. It squirms with bizarre tentacles that twist and curl, bringing to mind a Lovecraftian creation. And the scenes where Ms. Carmody whips the believers into a frenzy are tense and gut-wrenching, particularly when she starts screaming about a blood sacrifice and expiation and starts clawing at Drayton’s son (played wonderfully by Nathan Gamble).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Forty-Eight - "The Amityville Horror!"

Salacious salutations! I'm up early and highly caffeinated today, so I figured "IT'S GO TIME!"

As the Challenge reaches the halfway mark (this Saturday is the midpoint), I find myself looking back to when this began way back in July and the serious fun I've had doing this thang. The best times have been when people show up to watch with me - which quite a few people have either done or have offered to do so.

I almost bailed on this thing right at the start - in fact that was the most challenging time for me. There were doubts as to why I am even doing this, then the feeling that no one is even reading this blog (which there aren't many of you - I could probably count you all on one hand).

But despite those feelings, this has been a decent time so far. Let's hope it continues.

Today's feature is one that I remember scaring the living shit out of me as a child. Let's see how "The Amityville Horror" does this time around. Check The Skinny and prepare for tomorrow's 2000 remake of "House of Wax!"

The Amityville Horror (1978): Directed by Stuart Rosenberg. Starring James Brolin, Margot Kidder and Rod Steiger.

The Skinny: Based on the bestselling book (itself allegedly based on "true events"), this 70s classic follows the Luzt family as they move into their new home on Long Island. Less than a month later, they left in the middle of the night, the victims of paranormal events that threatened to tear their lives apart.

What's Good: This is the portion of the blog where you are supposed to start singing that ridiculously catchy and equally horrifying theme song written my Lalo Schifflin. Dear god, did that music scare the shit out of me as a kid! Because when this movie came out, I was like 8 or 9 and had already read the book. So when I finally saw the film, I thought I would know what to expect. Nah, that was a ridiculous concept. I was terrified. Mortified. And like my son has said about certain horror films, it was scary because I thought it could happen to me because of the relatively realistic way the events were played out. There were no ghostly apparitions, no demonic monsters, no serial killers in hockey masks. It was just a series of increasingly disturbing tableaus that built up complete and total terror in me. Now? Now it's not quite so scary, although some scenes are still quite intense (more on that below).

What's Bad: James Brolin claims that he couldn't find work in Hollywood for years after this film because of his lousy performance. Frankly, no one - not even the incredible Rod Steiger - put in an Oscar-worthy turn, but the performances aren't awful. Everyone just looks kind of ... I dunno, stoned or tired or something. And as with many films from that era, the lighting is a mess. If you happened to view this film in the 80s on a VHS copy that had already been watched a few dozen times, you couldn't even tell what you were looking at sometimes. The digital age has cleaned up some of that darkness when viewed on DVD, but there are still shadows that cover the entire production. There is also a lackadaisical approach to the dialogue - it's hard at times to buy that the two leads are a married couple, because they have no good interactions at all.

Why We Like Is: Actually, I do like this film - if only for nostalgic reasons. It makes for a good watch if you've never seen it before and don't know what to expect. Younger viewers who cut their horror teeth on flicks where the action is intensely kinetic and gory beyond belief may not have the patience for its hypnotic pacing and lack of action. They would be better off with the 2005 remake, that actually improves on the original by adding those very elements. Plus the fact that they took a real event - the 1972 DeFeo family murders, where a son systematically killed his entire family while they slept - and tried to build this mythos around it is fascinating to me. I read endlessly about this house and the family as a youngster and a teen and for many years believed it was all real as pie. Now, I look back and see a troubled youngster who was afraid of his own shadow ... but that doesn't mean I didn't have fun!

Memorable Stuff" The most memorable thing is clearly Schifflin's score - that haunting melody (Oscar nominated, I might add) will stick with you forever. As far as scenes in the movie, the obvious choice is the scene where Steiger's priest character comes to bless the house at the owner's requests. As he starts in with the holy water and the prayers, the room fills with flies - in the middle of winter - and a disembodied, demonic voice groans, "Get out! GET OUUUUT!" That shit scared the motherfucking holy shit out of my godless ass when I was 10. And I guess it still does, since I just got goosebumps just typing it. Good stuff.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Forty-Seven - "White Zombie!"


Hey hey. Yeah, I'm late again today, so what's it to you?

As we count down to the Halloween season (only 53 days left!), I find myself longing for the changing leaves, the crisp air, the blazing October sunsets, and - yes of course - the great fun the season brings. My annual party, of course, and a few orchard visits, and let's not forget those great Halloween Hayrides our area has! Yes, I am planning on cramming the fun in this year, since last year's rainy weekends robbed me of my autumn funtime.

And the reason for my joy this season? The pressure cooker this damn movie thing is putting me under! Classics like tonight's flick, 1932's "White Zombie!" Read on, ravers!

White Zombie (1932): Directed by Victor Halperin. Starring Bela Lugosi, Madge Belamy and Joseph Cawthorne.

The Skinny: In this black and white classic, Bela Lugosi stars as a white voodoo master with a cadre of zombies working his sugar plantation. When a man secretly wants to turn his paramour into a zombie, the plan spins out of control and he finds himself in a battle for her very soul!

What's Good: For it to spawn the name of a classic 90s metal band, the movie HAS to be good, right? Meh, it's okay really. I mean, the best thing about the film - and I think any movie critic would agree - is the visuals. There is a long hypnotic shot of zombies walking in a circle as they toil at the wheel of a mill that is just utterly captivating. Add to that Lugosi's inimitable presence and a brilliant (and memorable) score and it is an atmospheric masterpiece.

What's Bad: Unfortunately, that atmosphere is sometimes shattered by hammy acting and so-so dialogue. And also, most copies of the film out there are not-so-good transfers because the film was lost for many years and - if I am not mistaken - it is also currently in the Public Domain.

Why We Like It: No question here - I love just about any Lugosi film. The man was truly underrated and it's a shame he was typecast as a result of his greatest film, "Dracula." And in this film, without much to say that interesting, there's lots of those great piercing stares Lugosi can give, not to mention some terrific eyebrow play.

Memorable Stuff: The aforementioned scene with the zombies at the wheel is the best thing I can recall - in fact it's used a few times in the movie if I remember correctly. There's also a great shot of Lugosi laying down some hand-jive and those stares as he works his mojo on an unsuspecting Madge Bellamy. Spooky stuff!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Forty-Six - "Taste the Blood of Dracula!"

Sorry folks, another late entry today - a long, busy Tuesday followed by the utter intense need to take a nap after I got home. In fact, I almost skipped the whole shebang today when I looked and saw the film for today ... then I reversed myself.

This movie is one of my all-time favorite Hammer films, period. If not my absolute favorite, which is a hard choice to make. Tomorrow, prepare for the classic "White Zombie," but until then play along with our home version!

Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970): Starring Christopher Lee, Geoffrey Keen, Ralph Bates, Isla Blair and Roy Kinnear.

The Skinny: Number five in a series of films about everyone's favorite Count starring Christopher Lee follows a merchant who stumbles across the dying vampire and saves some of his powdered blood. Soon, one of his disciples steps forward accompanied by a group of jaded Englishmen looking for the next thrill. When Lord Courtly conducts a ritual to return the Count to life, however, they get more than they bargained for.

What's Good: Some of the genre fans dislike this movie because there is very little for Lee to do - he doesn't even appear until almost the middle of the film, and even then he doesn't have much to say or do. But the idea of four well-to-do English businessmen looking for that next thrill and winding up in a Satanic Mass to revive Dracula is a great premise. Plus there are great scenes of the gents as they party it up deep in the bowels of a bizarre brothel where all pleasures of the flesh can be found ... for the right price. Yes! Sign me up!

What's Bad: By that same token, we want to see Lee do his thing, but instead he stands around kind of overseeing the action and ticking off the deaths as the gents fall to his plan of vengeance. In fact, the original premise was for Bates to actually become Dracula as opposed to simply reviving him, but they changed it back to Lee for whatever reason. And again, if you cannot appreciate the reused sets, actors and low-budget charm of the Hammer House of Horror, then by all means look away.

Why We Love It: Why? Because I want to go to some brothel and drink champagne with laudanum in it and watch a chick dance with a python amid hookahs and embroidered silk pillows. That, sir and madam, is why I love it.

Memorable Stuff: You mean other than the chick with the snake (hey, this is the second movie in a row to feature a sexy snake dance, what the hell?)? Well then it's Dracula's resurrection scene, where Lord Courtly adds blood to Drac's powdered blood and it oozed out of the cups of the gentlemen as he urges them to "Drink! Drink, damn you! DRINK!"

Monday, September 6, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Forty-Five - "From Dusk Til Dawn!"

Exposing dread secrets of LIFE, DEATH and ETERNITY which others fear to touch! Do You Dare Face THE SUPERNATURAL?

I thought so ...

I have been watching a lot of movies over the past few days, and last night was no exception. The wife and I actually wound up watching two more horror films last night - the 2010 remake of "The Wolfman," which was just plain awful even with Benicio del Toro (one of my favorite actors), and 2010's "Dreamcatcher," another Stephen King film that I never saw before and that I found better than most critics gave it. I was sorely disappointed with the "Wolf Man" debacle as I love the 1941 original so damn much that I was hoping del Toro (a self-confessed "Wolf Man" fan himself) would save the movie. But the script was just so damn awful - not the plot so much but the frigging dialogue was so dull and pedantic, with many opportunities for bad "tough guy" lines that just fucking don't belong.

Lucky for me, today's movie selection doesn't disappoint me one damn bit.

in celebration of "Machete" finally hitting theaters this weekend, we shall enjoy Robert Rodriguez's 1996 classic vampire tale, "From Dusk til Dawn," a movie I love dearly! Check The Skinny below and if you have this one, play along at home!

From Dusk til Dawn (1996): Directed by Robert Rodriguez. Starring George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Scott Liu, Dammy Trejo, Salma Hayak, Tom Savini and Fred Williamson.

The Skinny: Before he brought it all home for splatter films in "Planet Terror," director Robert Rodriguez unleashed this modern vampire tale on us way back in the 90s. Seth and Richie Gecko are bank robbers on the run after a jailbreak, hoping to cruise on into Mexico by hiding out with a former preacher and his family in their travel trailer. Once the cross the border, they just have to make it until Dawn to meet with their connection. But when they try to pass the time away at the Titty Twister Bar, they find themselves up to their necks in a flood of ancient vampires!

What's Good: This whole motherfucking film is goddam good, folks. The best thing that Rodriguez does here is turn convention on its ear; if you didn't know you were about to watch a vampire movie, you'd swear you were about to watch the latest Quentin Tarantino gangster flick - but the truth is, it's both! The script, penned by eventual "Grindhouse" collaborator Tarantino, starts off in one genre and seamlessly crosses into another. The Gecko Brothers are one of his greatest creations, right up there with the Vega Brothers and the DIVAS from "Kill Bill" (who got their start - if you pay close enough attention - as the Fox Force Five from "Pulp Fiction"). And George Clooney as Seth plays against type, guzzling booze, gulping down speed, shooting up places and people and using language you never heard on the stupid doctor show he was on. When the movie turns on its ear and goes from hipster to horror, Rodriguez keeps the finger on both the action button and the gore lever - when these vamps explode in the sun, they don't dry up like Dracula and blow away. They're wet, gross and nasty like the zombies of "Planet Terror." The rest of the cast are also quite solid - from Salma Hayak as Satanica Pandemonium, a sexy snake dancer, to "Machete" himself Danny Trejo as a hard-drinking tattooed bartender, to the never-fails presence of makeup and special effects master Tom Savini as biker Sex Machine. They even drag up "Shaft's" Fred Williamson and make him a hard ass Vietnam vet who gives a graphic description of taking out a whole VC squad ("There was blood ... and chunks of yellow flesh ... clinging to my bayonet."). It's a total romp from start to finish.

What's Bad: Well, it has all the earmarks of a classic Tarantino flick - sexy foot close-ups, toe-sucking, gun violence, naughty language, underage drinking, boobies and exploding vampires. Okay, maybe there isn't much of all that in "reservoir Dogs," but here he really cuts loose. No, the only drawback to this film is its violence - so if that turns you off, then yeah stay away. It also produced two sequels - produced by Tarantino and Rodriguez - that were just awful.

Why We Like It: So far, these two cats - Rodriguez and Tarantino - have done me no wrong, so I still bow at their worshipful feet. Getting the two together also has so far yielded some fantastic results and this early effort is no different. The script is sharp, the dialogue quippy and endlessly quotable, and the acting is just fine, yes just fine. There's also the great music, tinged with a Southern Rock flavor and made complete by the live performances of Tito and Tarantula in the film. It even introduces actor Michael Parks' character Texas Ranger Earl McGraw, who would go on to play a role in both the "Kill Bill" movies and the "Grindhouse" films. But it's here in "From Dusk til Dawn" - technically the first time we meet him - that we see his ultimate demise at the hands of Richie Gecko. No, I love this flick - it's high on the list, maybe in the top ten.

Memorable Stuff: Clooney's character has line after line of cool Tarantino-isms that stick with you forever ("Now, is my shit together or is my shit together?" "Everybody be cool -- YOU be cool!"), and so do plenty of other folks. But, I'm sorry ... the most memorable thing in the film is Hayek's sexy-ass dance with a huge albino python draped around her neck as Tito and Tarantula jam out the incredible "After Dark." As she parades off the stage and onto a table, Tarantino can't help but write a toe-sucking scene into the script (the man has a fetish, I swear) - and oh my gawd - what a scene. Hayek pours a bottle of booze down her leg and Tarantino sucks this precious ambrosia off of her pointed toe like a starving babe having at mother's swollen teats. You could almost jack off to it. Almost. Oh, fuck it - of course I jacked off to it, who am I kidding?