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Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

The Coslow family reside in the quiet town of Tarker’s Mills.   Marty and Jane Coslow are brother and sister, with Jane bearing a heavier load than most siblings, since she’s tasked by her parents to constantly assist Marty, who is paralyzed and requires a wheelchair.   Jane and Marty’s normal sibling rivalry carries with it an undercurrent of resentment, since Jane feels her parents give Marty special treatment.

Also popping up is the gregarious Uncle Red, the kind of guy who blows into town and out again, the only constant presence in his life being a bottle of booze.   It is he that encourages Marty to be a “normal” kid, gifting him with fireworks and what is essentially a motorcycle modified to fit a wheelchair instead of a saddle for Marty’s amusement.   He adores his nephew, in particular, but Red is the kind of guy who doesn’t take anything seriously at all.

Tarker’s Mills begins to experience grisly murders, something which begins to change the Coslaw family.   At first, the town believes the murders are accidents, but after a young boy is ripped to shreds, the town mobilizes into a vicious mob to seek some old-fashioned vigilante justice, only to have some of the mob attacked by the werewolf.

Marty’s new motorcycle, dubbed Silver Bullet thanks to Uncle Red, is shiny and fast, which is why Marty sneaks out in the middle of the night to ride on the back roads of Tarker’s Mills.  Naturally, he encounters the werewolf and only survives by shooting one of Red’s procured fireworks into the eye of the werewolf.  When he shares this information with Jane, they hunt for a townsperson with only one eye.

The werewolf turns out to be the most unlikely suspect – the local preacher, Lester Lowe, who is both tortured by his conscience and rationalizes his own set of murders.   Marty and Jane band together with the reluctant Uncle Red to fight the menace to Tarker’s Mills.

If you view Silver Bullet against the collected adaptations of Stephen King’s works, it falls  far to the bottom of the list.  It lacks a lot of the emotional punch of King’s other adaptations and the special effects are a bit dismal, even if you view them in the context of 1985, when the movie was made.

The King book this is based on is Cycle of the Werewolf, one that I’ve never read, but I was inspired to revisit Silver Bullet after finally finishing King’s newest book, Under the Dome.   The batshit crazy preacher of Under the Dome reminded me so strongly of Silver Bullet‘s Lester Lowe that I moved the movie to the top of my Netflix queue.   In an odd, sad sense of timing, I received Silver Bullet around the same time that Corey Haim, who played Marty Coslaw, died.  In many ways, the movie has some movement and power solely off the performances of Haim, who played sweet and innocent so very well, and Gary Busey as fun-loving Uncle Red.

Silver Bullet is flat and not very sharp; I have better memories of it from my childhood than it deserves.   It’s important to note Stephen King has been a large part of my life and was a large part of my childhood – quite a few of my childhood fears were shaped and molded by Mr. King himself.   I still shudder remembering parts of It, The Tommyknockers, The Stand and The Mist – either their film adaptations or the books themselves.   Stephen King has been sort of synonymous with horror for much of my life and I think it’s worth it to point out that I was never scared by a damn thing in Silver Bullet.  Perhaps the most lasting image is Lowe in his eyepatch, and that’s about it.

It’s a film that doesn’t carry much weight that I only viewed for the nostalgia factor, really, and I don’t know that I could wholeheartedly recommend it unless you’re longing for a movie from your childhood.  I can’t comment on how faithfully they adapted King’s book since I never read Cycle of the Werewolf, but hell, give me The Langoliers any day over this.

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So much to like and so much to … not.

Diablo Cody was damned if she did well and damned if she didn’t.   After the success of Juno, an Oscar and all the hipster cred a girl could ever want, Cody seemed to be either much hated or much loved by film geeks.    Any follow-up she crafted would have been heavily scrutinized, no matter what it was.   It’s a shame that Jennifer’s Body has gotten heavy flak given the fact it bombed at the box office in spectacular fashion, because it’s not terrible.   It’s also a shame that Jennifer’s Body isn’t great either.

Needy Lisnicki (Amanda Seyfried) is a geeky high schooler who has a normal life, complete with average guy boyfriend Chip.    Needy’s best friend, Jennifer Check, is the most popular girl in school.   Their unlikely friendship is the result of growing up as best friends and sticking together all their lives, to the point where they can sense things about one another.   “Sandbox love never dies,” says Needy.   They live in the town of Devil’s Kettle, a place where nothing exciting happens, and everyone and everything has horrible, sour-sounding names.  (Needy?   Really.)

One night, Jennifer wheedles and pleads with Needy to see an indie band called Low Shoulder at some dive bar.   Fronted by the scheming Nikolai (played by a fantastic Adam Brody), the band longs for mainstream success.  Due to some well-intentioned lies, the band believes Jennifer to be a virgin.   When a horrific accident befalls the bar, the band lures Jennifer to their van and sacrifices her in the woods to Satan.   The problem is Jennifer’s not a virgin and she comes back all wrong.   In fact, she comes back needing to eat people for sustenance.   Needy has to confront the demonic aspects of her best friend and the fact that Jennifer’s “evil, not just high school evil”.

Obviously, Jennifer’s Body is about female high-school relationships and how toxic and sick they can be at times.    I’ve read Cody proclaiming this is a feminist movie; I don’t think that, but it is refreshing to have two female leads and a female-centered horror story.

The style and tone of the film is remarkably similar to Heathers in a way.  Needy provides a running voice-over, much like Veronica.   Jennifer, even before she becomes a succubus from Hell is Heather McNamara.  Post-demonic transference, she’s Heather McNamara channeling the spirit of J.D.   Jennifer’s Body has the same winky black humor as Heathers.   Hell, Cody liberally seasoned the movie with so much of her whippy slang it’s hard not to compare it to Heathers, especially when it appears Cody’s angling to get in an iconic quote much like the infamous “I love my dead, gay son” moment.   With all of the parody of grief and the platitudes people spout and all of the above references, Jennifer’s Body becomes less like a homage or tipping its hat to Heathers and more like someone used it as Cliff’s Notes.

Megan Fox surprisingly is good, given that she demonstrates some measure of self-awareness and actually sells the scene in which Low Shoulder sacrifices her in the woods.    Adam Brody steals the show as an asshole wanna-be rockstar.   Cody’s got recurring characters from Juno popping up too, like J.K. Simmons as a high school teacher with a hook that prove to be fairly funny.

For the most part, Jennifer’s Body is fun; it’s not horrific, it’s not gory, but it is mostly fun with a dash of teenage self-exploration.   More than a few of Cody’s lines and signature teen-speak fall so flat it’s awkward, but most of them zing like they’re supposed to.   I still haven’t decided how I feel about the ending, which is what you would expect and not what you’d expect all at the same time.   I have problems with some of the choices the director, Karyn Kusama, made, but for the most part, I think Kusama did a fairly good job.

(Note to whoever insisted on the lesbian kiss between Fox and Amanda Seyfried:  totally unnecessary and slightly exploitative, dudes.)

I’d recommend it is a Netflix rental, that’s for sure.   There’s a couple of commentaries on the DVD but I haven’t had a chance to watch them yet.   (As a side note, I watched the extended version, however different that is from the theatrical version.)

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(Absurdly Late) Halloween Movies: [REC]

I KNOW.   I know.   I’m so late.   I’m the White freakin’ Rabbit.

Angela Vidal is a Spanish reporter.   She and her cameraman Pablo work for a show called While You Sleep, which in addition to being the motto of the United Federation of Stalkers is a show that highlights the lives and times of people with night-time careers.   I’m sure the previous shows of While You Sleep are scintillating viewing.

Angela and Pablo are assigned to cover a firehouse.    They manage to muck around, interview some people and have some nice scenes of Angela freaking out about her hair, her makeup, her interview subjects.

When a call comes in, Angela and Pablo gladly hop a ride with the firefighters since the firehouse is so dreadfully dull everyone in there seems to be contemplating huffing some fire retardant just to have something to do.   They arrive on scene to find an elderly woman in her apartment.  They think she’s ill but really, she’s more in the realm of “totally fucking demented thanks to some zombifying virus”.    The elderly lady takes a chunk out of a policeman’s neck, attacks one of the firefighters and throws him over the balcony into the lobby below.

It’s not long before Spain’s version of the CDC shows up to lock shit down tighter than Fort Knox.    Inside, the residents and various first responders begin to panic.   Their only thoughts are of – what else – escape.    These thoughts only become more frenzied as the residents who have been attacked become violent and reanimate, even after they are dead.

In short terms, it’s Suck City, population two – Pablo and Angela.

[REC]‘s greatest strength is that it manages to take some very tired tropes and a sub-genre that’s becoming dangerously close to being played out and creates something fresh and exciting.    Quite a large portion of [REC]‘s scariness lies in jump scares and effective tricks, but they’re at least done well and not half-heartedly.

The bad part is that [REC] perhaps gives too much away.   Anytime I feel like a movie gives too much away, I think back to Vincenzo Natali’s brilliant Cube – a movie that has no real explanation for why the characters end up in the cube and is all the scarier for it.   While [REC] does something a little brave in giving the origins of the zombie virus a new history and spin, perhaps less is more.   Just the very thought of being trapped in an apartment building with your mutated, bloodthirsty neighbors is scary enough, surely.

The found footage aspect of [REC] is a little less obnoxious, mainly because a plot point is that Pablo’s a professional cameraman, so the footage looks cleaner and at times, less shakier than an amateur’s work would.    The incessant tricks – dropping the camera on the floor, Pablo and Angela rewinding the tape over and over – get old after a while.

The movie’s a lovely, solid effort though and good enough to make you wish we got more like it more often.    It feels fresh and thrilling, even with its faults, and it already has a sequel.    I don’t think anyone will begrudge it a sequel or two, given that if they get time to expand on the odd backstory, the franchise could go interesting places.

If you want to see it, Netflix has it and I’d recommend loading it into your queue and watching it with friends.   Perhaps not your neighbors, though.

 

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You let that crazy shine on through, Nicholson!

TheShining

Aspiring writer Jack Torrance has been paying the bills as a teacher, but he longs for more time to write.   After kicking booze due to a nasty incident where he injured his child, Torrance accepts a position as the winter caretaker for The Overlook Hotel.   He packs up wife Wendy and son Danny and heads for rural Colorado, where they soon get snowed in.   It doesn’t take long for the paranormal weirdness to start affecting Torrance, though.

The Shining is one of those horror movies that always pops up on Top 10 Horror lists and is cited by many folks as a movie that scared the hell out of them.   There’s a good reason for that.    If you watch The Shining, it’s a relatively bloodless movie, especially in comparison to some of the other movies I’ve watched recently.   Kubrick conducts a damn master class in suspense.   Most of the movie is actually build-up, rather than anything really happening.    And the scene that always freaks me out the most is the scene where Wendy (Shelley Duvall) discovers that the “book” Jack is working on is actually just page after page of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” typed over and over again.

It’s odd because I’m not a huge Stanley Kubrick fan, but the sense of isolation and growing dread he subtly infuses is just genius.    The Shining is just the story of a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic patriarch filtered through the paranormal lens of The Overlook Hotel.   Even before Nicholson takes up residence in The Overlook, he already has the look of a man teetering on the edge of complete psychosis.   And Shelley Duvall porrays the poor put-upon wife, Wendy, so well as a woman desperately trying to re-weave the last tangled threads holding her family together.

The Shining wouldn’t work half as well if not for the spooky score and brilliantly constructed sets.    It’s a long movie, for sure, but an effective one.   Even with the creepiness of Room 237 and the scary looking twin girls, it was always Jack’s conversations with Mr. Grady, the previous caretaker who went nuts and chopped up his wife and twin girls with an axe, that bothered me the most.    There’s one conversation in particular that stems around “correcting” family behavior that’s eerie.

Shining 1

The concept of being snowbound with an insane family member, one you thought you knew very well a that, is scary enough, but when Kubrick adds in the specters and tricks The Overlook plays on its inhabitants, as well as the trauma sustained by Danny, Wendy and Jack’s psychically sensitive son with fanatically fine-tuned construction and planning, The Shining becomes a movie that shockingly transcends its source material.

That’s a big statement, considering Stephen King is probably the most popular American author living.   I refuse to give Dan Brown any credit, since King can actually write.    And most King adaptations have either been middling or just plain crap, with a few exceptions.   (Even King himself disowned the atrocious Lawnmower Man.)   Even though Kubrick’s version of The Shining deviates in major ways from King’s book, it’s actually all the better for it.   I think Stephen King disagrees with me, but The Shining is one of the few movies that feels very close to being pitch perfect.

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Take some lost kids look for a Doctor Satan, a completely insane hillbilly family, sprinkle in some inspirations from other horror movies and bake at 350 degrees for a few hours.

house1000

I don’t think Rob Zombie knows how to make a movie by Rob Zombie.   Sure, House of 1000 Corpses is gory and violent, but that’s all that Zombie really relies on to make it scary.    House of 1000 Corpses borrows so heavily from movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in style and substance that it’s hard to view it as its own separate movie.

I haven’t seen Halloween or its much panned sequel, both directed by Zombie, but my problem with Rob has always been that he incorporates too little original content into his own movies with no new spin or take on the subject matter.   It’s not hard to surmise that people are afraid of clowns (It), freaky weirdo rednecks (Deliverance), sadistic, cannibalistic families who torture and chop people up (Texas Chainsaw Massacre).    Zombie also has an unfortunate tendency to keep casting Sheri Moon Zombie, his wife, in his movies.   Moon’s Baby Firefly is never truly scary; she’s simply so annoying you wish you could reach through the screen and smack her.   Bill Moseley as the never-washed and ranty Otis is wonderful, but when you pair him with Moon, it’s obnoxious.

While House of 1000 Corpses is notable for the violence, I don’t think Zombie’s learned the element of leaving an audience in suspense or building tension.   Every scary thing about House of 1000 Corpses is the bloody messes the Firefly family leaves in their trail; the far more abysmal The Devil’s Rejects, which is the sequel to this one, relied too much on Otis and company torturing innocent folks to get the audience scared.   (The Devil’s Rejects, it should be noted, bothered me so much I only got through 20 minutes of the movie.)

I like Zombie a lot; I think he’s a person who genuinely loves horror movies and knows a fantastic amount about them, but I don’t think he’s mastered quite how to make them on his own without borrowing liberally from the men who came before him for inspiration.

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Ah, it’s a fish…monster….thing!

the host 2

 

Here’s my issue with The Host: what I saw, I really liked and what I heard, I did not.    The Host is pretty much about a gigantic fish-monster … thing spawned by scientists dumping toxic chemicals into a river that makes with the roaring and the rampaging one fine day.   The survivors start coming down with a virus (or do they?) as one family struggles to find a member that they thought was dead – but really isn’t.

Since I was knocking together bookcases, I put The Host on the dubbed version since I was trying to multi-task.   It’s really never a good sign when one of the voice actors does an impression of Officer Barbrady from South Park for a cop voice.    I think that I missed out on a lot by not reading the subtitles and listening to the normal voices, but what I saw I liked.   It’s fun and a little frenzied, if at times sorta forced.

Although…fish monster?   Really?

thedescentposter

A bunch of women go spelunking only to discover uncharted horrors!

So, things I have learned from The Descent:

  • Don’t ever go spelunking in caves;
  • If you do, bring extra knives, maybe a gun;
  • If you spot some creepy, blind cave dwellers – run, don’t ask them for directions;
  • DO NOT GO SPELUNKING WITH ANYONE NAMED JUNO;
  • The Descent 2 shouldn’t even be in existence if we’re going with the “real” ending here;
  • Be prepared if you are in a group stranded in an extreme situation that strikes you as the kind of place Bear Grylls would explore on camera for one or more of your friends to go batshit insane.

I think the worst part of The Descent isn’t the creepy crawlers; the film would’ve worked properly and efficiently if they hadn’t been included, with all respect.   The extreme sense of claustrophobia and of being hopelessly lost is frightening enough.   The breakdown between the members of the group and how they react to such a situation is even more frightening.   The crawlers, actually, are just the icing on the cake, so to speak.

 

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It’s that classic tale of boy meets girl, unless you count the girl being a crack science reporter and the boy being a semi-mad genius obsessed with teleportation.

Seth Brundle is a researcher working on how to make teleportation work.   Veronica Quaife scents a story in Seth Brundle; she follows him back to his lab and he shows her these nifty two telepods he’s been working on.  After some arguing, the two agree that Veronica can hang around and cover one of the greatest scientific achievements ever.   It soon becomes more than that, though, and Seth and Veronica’s communication problems soon cause Seth to get drunk and make a very, very bad decision.

fly

I’d say that accidentally teleporting yourself with a common housefly is a very large problem, especially when you combine with the fly at a molecular level with a human to create Brundlefly.   Ick.

David Cronenberg remade the fly from a hokey ’50’s sci-fi flick (come on, the scientist’s head was practically pasted onto a fly’s body) into a much more modern retelling of the horrors that can be achieved through science and arguably what it means to be human.    While it’s gory, sure, Cronenberg never uses violence for violence’s sake (Rob Zombie, we’ll get to you later); instead, he uses it when necessary.   … And let’s face it, Goldblum’s transformation into the fully realized Brundlefly, with his half-fly, half-human body and all the changes he has to make to get there, is going to be gory no matter what

Creepiest moment: Has got to be, hands down, Brundle’s collection of body parts that have fallen off which he stores in his medicine cabinet.   Yuck.  Either that or Goldblum’s semi-deranged rant about taking a dip in the plasma pool.

Scariest moment: I can never, ever, ever hear about someone having a baby without picturing Geena Davis giving birth to a glo-worm.

glowormImagine that thing, sans the cutesy face and nightcap.   OH, THE HORROR OF IT ALL.

I love The Fly.  It’s got a lot of moments of genuine horror and suspense, as well as one of the weirdest performances Goldblum has done.      It’s definitely not one of the weirdest movies David Cronenberg has done (Oh!  David, let’s be BFF just for The Brood!) but I think, one of the best.   It’s a good fright flick that’s watchable just for the scares or if you want, for the ethical and moral questions it raises.

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