Thursday, June 23, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Strikes Back Day 23: Biggest WTF moment a character placed themselves into.

Again with the damn text abbreviations. Next challenge I participate in, I demand real words only! Anyway, Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror has gained cult classic status because it is 85 minutes of nonstop WTF moments. It’s a lot of fun, it’s pretty gory, and the action doesn’t let up once it gets started, but it has quite the abundance of head scratching moments. Why do the zombies look like they are wearing masks of Fulci zombies made out of paper mache and play-dough? Why is there a bear trap in the middle of the courtyard? Did that zombie just throw a huge nail like a throwing knife and make a shot Bruce Lee couldn’t pull off? Did you just actually put on old dusty lingerie that you found in a random drawer? Did someone really just say “Let the zombies in, maybe they’re not after us?” Is your big finish a freeze frame with nonsensical, misspelled text?

Apparently so. This will be a nigth to remember, so sayeth the Profecy. I love it. This movie is absolutely ludicrous, but it has such a surreal energy that it’s relentlessly entertaining. I would expect nothing less from Andrea Bianchi, the director who also gave us Strip Nude For Your Killer and Malabimba: The Malicious Whore. If you’re a fan of the bizarre side of Italian grindhouse horror cinema, you definitely need to check it out. I could go on forever about this flick, but I think I’m going to do a full review of this one down the road, so I’ll cut to the chase. There is one situation in this movie that trumps all of the others, and maybe any scene in horror history, in terms of sheer WTF-ness.

One member of the horny, clueless band of zombie fodder is Evelyn, who brought along her son Michael. That’s him right there. Michael was played by a 26 year old dwarf named Peter Bark and dubbed over by an adult man trying to sound like a little boy. This dude is straight up creepy. He’s, like, beyond Zelda in Pet Sematary creepy. He’s beyond Reverend Kane in Poltergeist 2 creepy. He’s beyond Zelda Rubenstein in, well, anything creepy. He just might be the creepiest character I’ve ever laid eyes on. Anyway, his clinging to mom has an air of inappropriate sexuality to it. He also ends up walking in on her getting it on with her boyfriend. Instead of staying under the covers, she gets out of bed, covers her lower afro (it was the 70’s after all), and stands there admonishing him topless. Hmmm.

Later, once the zombies start attacking, she sits on the couch, consoling her distraught son. Here is where it gets weird. Michael starts kissing on his mom, feeling her up, and talking about how much he loves her breasts. Seriously. Look at the picture to the left. He’s totally second basin’ it with mom! He gets a hand up her skirt and tries to “give her the finger” if you catch my drift, and mom slaps him and tells him no. Yes, THAT’s where he crossed the line. Mommy dearest, I do believe that we need to have a little talk about boundaries. Michael then gets upset, runs off, and is promptly killed by the zombies.

Fast forward about twenty minutes. Evelyn is among the final three survivors. They’re holed up in a monastery with a bunch of zombie monks, and that’s not even the weird part. Not even close. They’ve fought off the few zombies who’ve gotten in, very badly I might add, when who should come walking through the door but our zombified preteen perv buddy, Michael. He’s very obviously zombified, so Evelyn definitely knows that he’s one of those things that have been trying to kill her for the past day, but she does what any good mother would do. She runs to him, embraces him, lets him pull her shirt open, and pushed his face into her heaving bosom, saying “Oh yes darling, just like when you were a baby. Go ahead, I know you want to.” This scene definitely gets a place in the “Ewwwww” hall of fame. From the looks on the other characters faces while this is going on, I’d say they’re thinking the same thing we are.

What do you think happens next? You shouldn’t have to think too had about it. Evelyn, mother of the year, is rewarded for her incestuous weirdness with this…

Congratulations, you just got half of your tit bitten off by your own son. There is only one thing you can say about this whole reanimated Oedipal cannibalistic misadventure…WTF?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Strikes Back Day 22: Villain with the worst motive.

I have to give a little bit of a disclaimer on this one. Normally I’m as accurate as humanly possible when discussing movies. If I’m a little fuzzy on a detail or a quote or something, I pop in the flick and double check. Well, I haven’t seen Urban Legend: Final Cut since I saw it in the theater in 2000. That’s 11 years, and I’ve probably seen at least a thousand movies since then. That’s a VERY conservative estimate. I actually did check with my friends to see if anyone had a copy I could borrow. No one did. Shocker, I can’t imagine anyone actually owning this. That’s ok, I really didn’t want to put myself through that again anyway. I’m not even going to download it. It’s that bad. I did hit up that paragon of reliable information, wikipedia, though. I remember the basic plot and got the details from there, so if I’m way off here, bear with me. Then again, are any of you really going to watch Urban Legend: Final Cut to check? Didn’t think so. Even the cinematic masochist in me wouldn’t go that far.

I don’t remember a whole lot about the flick. Mainly I remember Rebecca Gayheart’s cameo and I remember thinking just how dumb the killer was. Here’s his basic motive. Back when he was in film school, he made a student film and submitted it to a contest for the “Hitchcock Award.” The guest judge hated it and cost him the award. Years later, the guest judges daughter is making a film for the contest. To get revenge for the slight against his filmmaking talents years ago, he’s going to kill off the people making the film, frame the daughter, and take credit for the film himself. This great plot was brought to you by the writing team of Scott Derrickson and Paul Haris Boardman. These guys would team up again the same year to kill a great franchise with Hellraiser: Inferno. Thanks fellas.

On to the killer. Ok genius, it seems we haven’t thought this out completely. Revenge is always a decent enough motive, even if it is pretty petty in this case. Petty vengeance is a staple of movies, and has worked excellently before. Here’s where the whole thing falls apart. First of all, Mr. Critic guest judge is dead. What’s the point of revenge if you can’t flaunt it in the persons face? That’s my stance, but I see how he would want to do it just for his own peace of mind. Here’s the really dumb part. You’re going to put your name on the film and claim it as your own. So what you’ve got is a movie featuring a bunch of actors and crewmembers that are now dead or missing. The last time they are seen alive is in your flick. Yeah, the one with your name on it. What the hell are you thinking? Who do you think the police are going to come to first wanting to know where your actors are? You just made yourself the prime suspect in the murders you’re trying to frame on someone else. Way to go dumbass! This movie got the level of criminal mastermind it deserved. Eleven years after the fact, the only thing that really stuck with me about the film is what a freakin’ idiot the killer was. Now that’s a sign of a quality horror flick. Two severed thumbs as far down as they can go. Nathan says DO NOT check it out.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Strikes Back Day 21: Character you would need a translator to speak to.

Back in the day I used to have a friend in Colorado that I’d met in AOL’s horror movie chatroom. Yes, it was that long ago. We used to swap bootleg movies that we thought the other needed to see. At the time, that involved mailing VHS tapes to each other. The kind of mail that involves stamps. Remember that? Anyway, we had a bit of a competition going on to see who could find the goriest flick that the other one had never heard of. He told me he’d found something special, and wouldn’t tell me anything except that it was 45 minutes of non stop gore. When that envelope came, I pulled out a tape marked Guinea Pig, popped it in, and was blown away by what I saw.

Now that I’m familiar with the Guinea Pig series, I know that it was the episode entitled Flower of Flesh and Blood. All I knew when I was watching it was that it looked like it was a fifth or sixth generation dub. The graininess and bad video quality added to the excitement, making it feel like I was watching something so forbidden that a good copy might not even exist. There was a guy in a samurai helmet, or, as we called it at the time, the Shredder helmet. Yes, that was a TMNT reference. He had a sedated girl tied to a bed. He would fiddle with the lights, give a soliloquy into the camera, and cut off a body part. Then he would fiddle with the lights some more, talk to the camera some more, and slice her up some more. This continued on and on until she was completely dismembered. It was, and might still be, the most realistic gore I’ve ever seen. This flick is a special effects masterpiece. The way the blood would start out slowly rising into the gash before the flow got heavy impressed me. The way the skin cut was incredibly realistic. So realistic in fact that it fooled Charlie Sheen and he called the FBI. If you don’t know that story, go google “Charlie Sheen Guinea Pig.” It’s hilarious. You’d think a warlock with tiger blood could tell the difference.

There was no plot, just the extremely well executed hacking up of a body. At least I assumed that there was no plot. Why? Because the damn video didn’t have any subtitles! I had no idea what Shredder kept blathering on about. I knew he was saying something that probably explained who she was or why he was chopping her up, but I don’t speak Japanese. He might as well have just been staring into the camera silently. By the time he started showing us his body part collection, complete with cool maggot close ups, I was completely lost. The visuals were really cool, but the voice over was completely lost on me. It didn’t really matter all that much because the whole point was the gore, but I’m a curious guy. It drove me a little nuts not knowing what Shredder was pontificating about. That’s the moment I really needed a translator to talk to him. Just to solve the mystery of what he was ranting about.

Now that I own a subtitled version, I know that I wasn’t missing any plot. The girl seems to be just someone snatched off the street at random. He’s chopping her up because he thinks it’s beautiful. He goes on and on, making “blood as flowers” metaphors and saying goofy stuff like…

That whole voiceover that goes on during the cool body part collection scene? He’s reciting something he calls “The Lullaby of Hell” which sounds like bad high school goth poetry. He’s just rambling about “pool of blood and needle mountains.” Only the Japanese could come up with this kind of stuff.

Now, before anyone takes that as a derogatory comment, I want to state that I love Japanese culture. I find it fascinating. I mean, look at all the cool things Japan gave us; kinbaku (or shibari, whichever term you prefer), sushi, Godzilla, Japanese maple trees, ninjas, deathmatch wrestling, classic Cat III flicks like All Night Long, Shogun’s Sadism, Entrails of a Virgin, Ebola Syndrome, Story of Ricky, and Tetsuo. Hell, I’m even willing to forgive Japan for anime. As much as I love you guys though, you’re a bunch of weirdos. Hentai? Weirdos! Dirty panty vending machines? Weirdos! “Full blossoms from her wrists” and “needle mountains?” Weirdos! I’m not knocking you or your culture, just saying that ya’ll are some whacked out people. Actually, that’s one of the main reasons I love the Japanese so much.

So, the subtitles contained nothing earth shattering, and it almost made just as much sense without them, but at least now I know. Upon first viewing though, I would have given anything for a translator. Just for the record, I sent him Men Behind the Sun next WITH subtitles. I wouldn’t do that to someone. I’m a sweetheart of a guy.

Guinea Pig, by the way, has 6 episodes. They’re all pretty good. The Devil’s Experiment is up there, as is He Won’t Die, but Flower of Flesh and Blood is definitely the best of the bunch. It’s a gorehounds dream. For a long time, it was the movie I would show my friends to see how much they could handle. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out, unless you’re the squeamish type or the kind that can’t enjoy a chick getting butchered without a bunch of plot getting in the way. In that case, this one isn’t for you, subtitles or not.

Carnival of Blood Blogathon: Review - The New Kids

Howdy folks. This is my contribution to In It For The Kills' Carnival of Blood blogathon. When you get done reading it, click on that nifty little banner down there and go check out what other midway madness they have going on. Hurry, Hurry, Hurry ladies and gentlemen! Step right up! The show is about to begin...

I’ve been hoodwinked. I’ve been hornswaggled. I’ve even been bamboozled. I imagine that I feel the same way a lot of theatergoers in 1985 felt. Take a look at that poster. “A new ticket to terror from the director of Friday the 13th” sure screams horror flick to me. The kids look scared. The creepy mannequin faces are, well, creepy. The art looks like a horror flick. It’s directed by Sean Cunningham. It features some great 80’s horror actors. I went into it expecting horror. What did I get? An 80’s teen mixture of The Karate Kid and Straw Dogs. It’s basically a typical “kid stands up to a bully” story with a bit of a meaner side. That’s not to say it’s bad necessarily, but a little truth in advertising would be nice!

Loren and Abby are teenagers who suddenly find themselves orphaned. They go to Florida to live with their Uncle Charlie, who has bought a run down carnival. As they fix up “Santa’s Funland,” start at their new school, and try to acclimate to their new lives, Abby catches the eye of a group of lowlife rednecks led by Eddie Dutra, a local drug dealer. After she spurns his advances, they begin harassing her. Her brother comes to her defense, and kicks off an escalating game of “top this.” The rednecks vandalize the carnival, so Loren assaults Dutra. Loren beats up a couple of the rednecks, so they all jump him. Finally, it gets to the point where Loren and Uncle Charlie are taken captive, and Loren must make a final stand in a fight to the death among the rides and popcorn stands.

This movie shines in the acting department. The flick really belongs to two performers. Lori Loughlin as Abby is outstanding. This was about three years before she would tie the knot with Uncle Jesse and have twins. I know you get the reference, don’t try to deny it. Here, she is the perfect balance between tough and vulnerable. She comes across as so innocent and “all American girl next door” that when she’s put in peril, you really feel for her. James Spader is the other standout. Even at this early stage in his career, he was proving to be a master of his craft. His performance as Dutra is pure malice, arrogance, and evil. How his character is never brought up in discussions of great film villains is a mystery to me. The performances are top notch all across the board though. In fact, there’s really not a weak link to be found. Shannon Presby is great as Loren, our hero. The rednecks are a sleazy and detestable bunch, particularly John Philbin (Return of the Living Dead) as Gid. Great 80’s character actor Eddie Jones (CHUD, Q the Winged Serpent, Tales From the Darkside) is wonderful as sweet, broke, and hapless Uncle Charlie. This movie also has one thing that can elevate any flick…gratuitous Tom Atkins! He is only in the movie for the fist five minutes as the father, but he’s always a welcome addition. Have I mentioned that I love me some Tom Atkins?

Aside from the acting though, this movie is a big missed opportunity. What could have been a harrowing fight for survival just doesn’t have the intensity to pull it off. I think there are three factors that kept this movie from being a classic. One is the lukewarm violence. Yes, I’m a jaded man and a rabid gorehound, so I’m always up for more hardcore violence and explicit mayhem, but this didn’t need to be a straight up horror flick. I don’t think it would have worked on that level. What it should have been was a gritty drama. It needed an edge; something along the lines of Straw Dogs, Rolling Thunder, or Deliverance. There are a few deaths, but they’re too tame. There’s even a decapitation by roller coaster that is completely bloodless. In fact, the only blood in the movie is either from an animal or a busted lip. The concluding shotgun attack on the midway has all the intensity of a shootout on The A-Team; hundreds of rounds and no bodily harm. The fact that the violence is so sanitized keeps it from having the down and dirty realism that could have made the siblings struggle much more riveting and effective. That said, Dutra’s demise was actually pretty satisfying.

When I was ranting about that during the closing credits, my friend said “Well, maybe that’s what passed for horror (implying violence) in 1985.” I’m pretty sure she just said that so she could laugh at me going off on another rant. She likes to bait me like that. Anyway, let’s look at some of the other movies that came out in 1985, shall we? We have Return of the Living Dead, Re-animator, Demons, Day of the Dead, Rambo 2, Friday the 13th 5, Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Phenomena, and Commando just to name a few. Do I need to keep going? My point is that movies had balls, violent balls at that, in 1985, so the time of its release is not an excuse.

Second, they do very little with the great carnival set. This could have been creepy as hell, or at least atmospheric. The camera could have played over the still, quiet rides and various mannequin figures to create a great ambiance. Have you ever been in one of those cheap roadside carnivals after everything’s shut down? The quiet in such a typically loud place is eerie and unsettling. If this had been played up, it would have contrasted strongly with the loud and brightly lit high school scenes and made it a much more interesting backdrop for the climactic struggle. Hell, the carnival, handled properly, could have almost been a character itself. There was a hall of mirrors scene that barely lasted a minute, but so little was done with it that it didn’t amount to anything. Come to think of it, there’s really no visual style in this movie at all. There are a couple of fleeting moments that are vintage Sean Cunningham, like close-ups on the feet of someone lurking or slow creeping POV shots of an unsuspecting victim. For the most part though, it’s a very straightforward shooting style light on the creativity.

The third thing is the music. It doesn’t get any cheesier or more stereotypically 80’s than the soundtrack to this movie. It does get a slight pass due to it being 1985. It was the kind of music you heard in every 80’s flick. That’s the problem. It all sounds like everything else. All of the instrumental score sounds like it should be playing under the opening credits of a second rate Falcon Crest or Dynasty. All of the actual songs either sound like the Growing Pains theme or a ripoff of “You’re the Best Around” from Karate Kid. Admit it; you started humming it as soon as I said the title, didn’t you? Relax, it’s almost impossible not to. While the soundtrack may be a product of its times, Sean Cunningham had already shown a knack for choosing great music to create a mood in his movies. Remember that killer Harry Manfredini score from Friday the 13th? Why didn’t he find something as evocative for this? The generic soundtrack helps suck any tension or power out of the film.

This flick could have and should have been a classic, especially with the phenomenal acting. It could have been a truly moving nail biter of a flick. Sean Cunningham is no stranger to making gritty, realistic, and violent but emotionally engrossing flicks. He did produce Last House on the Left after all. With The New Kids though, he had an unfortunate lapse into good taste and failed to pull the trigger. If the danger had seemed more severe and the conflict more agonizing, the audience would have truly cared deeply about the struggle Loren and Abby were facing. A couple of scenes do hint at the greatness that could have been. In my personal favorite, one of Dutra’s thugs is holding Abby. Dutra, grinning wickedly as only Spader can, implies that he is about to rape her. His hands still covered in the chicken blood he was smearing on Uncle Charlie, he removes her pants. As Abby’s heartbreakingly wholesome face registers abject terror, he kneels and begins to slowly and sensually wipe blood on her virginal white panties. It is an incredibly intense scene, and the most compelling visual of the film. I know I’ve used the word intensity a lot in this review, but that is the single thing that would have made the most difference; intensity. Had the rest of the film gone balls to the wall like this scene did, this flick would have been a masterpiece.

I know I’ve come down hard on this flick. Don’t get me wrong; I do love cheesy 80’s flicks. As far as they go, this is a good one. I just hate to see a good story and great acting squandered. It is an entertaining enough movie, but I think it had the potential to be so much more. A lot of people do love it though, and it is a bit of an under-the-radar cult classic. Watch it for what it is. It’s a very enjoyable ride if you know what to expect. That’s why they shouldn’t have marketed it as horror. I bet a lot of people who bought tickets based on that poster back in the mid 80’s had the same reaction that I did watching The New Kids. One last thing, I couldn’t think of where else to bring it up, but I loved that little ten year old redneck kid dropping F bombs. He was awesome! One severed thumb up. Nathan says don’t go in expecting straight up horror like I did, but when you’re in the mood for a good retro teen action romp with a little hint of horror flavor, check this one out.

Monday, June 20, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Strikes Back Day 20: Character with the best scream.

This was another close race. First runner up, and a very close second, is Marilyn Burns as Sally Hardesty in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. She set the bar as far as modern screamers. You have to be good to steal scenes from characters as over the top as the Sawyer family. She also gets major points for maintaining that blood curdling scream throughout a 27 hour shoot for the dinner table scene. I’ve worked with some great screamers at Netherworld and Blood Oaks, and by the end of a 7 or 8 hour night their voice is shot. 27 FREAKIN” HOURS! Amazing.

The title of best screamer, however, goes to the original scream queen, Fay Wray. She was the first actress to be famous for her scream, and she has yet to be matched. While she had a long and illustrious career, including such great horror flicks as Doctor X, The Vampire Bat, and The Mystery of the Wax Museum, she will always be most fondly remembered for her role as Ann Darrow in King Kong. Her screams throughout that movie will give you chills. She became the template for the damsel in distress, and a big part of that was her epic scream. Come on, someone name me a scream that is as iconic in cinema history as hers? What? That’s right, you can’t! While many can claim the title of Scream Queen, there is only one Queen of the Scream, the legendary Fay Wray.

The proof is in the scream itself though, isn’t it? For those of you who haven’t seen King Kong (not either of the terrible remakes, the original), first of all what the hell is wrong with you, and second here are a couple of clips. The first is a great moment, but they cut that beautiful scream off way to soon. The second is a collection of news stories covering her death in 2004, and her scream can be heard throughout. One listen to that mighty scream, and it’s really no competition. What else needs to be said?

Carnival of Blood Blogathon Tomorrow!

Tomorrow I'm participating in my first multi-blog event, the Carnival of Blood blogathon. It's the brainchild of Wednesday's Child over at In It For The Kills. We're all going to be writing about horror flicks that take place at Carnivals or Theme Parks. I can hear your brains racing now. That encompasses so many great movies! What are these guys gonna come up with? Well, you'll find out tomorrow. Just click on the banner below to go check out the site, which is awesome, then tomorrow click it again to check out the Carny Carnage.

SEE the bright lights and horrifying creatures! HEAR the roar of the roller coaster and the screams! SMELL the corndogs, funnel cake, and slight hint of vomit. EXPERIENCE thrills, chills, and heart stopping terror. It's the Carnival of Blood Blogathon!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Strikes Back Day 19: Character you were surprised was the killer.

Considering the abyss of sucktitude that the Saw franchise eventually fell into, sometimes it’s hard to remember how good the first three were. In fact, the first one was one of the best horror flicks of the early 2000’s era. Part of the film’s appeal was, of course, the traps, which was a fairly original concept. The other thing everyone was talking about was the ending. Attention M. Night Slapnuts; this is how you do a twist ending properly. It’s really tough to catch me off guard with a killer’s identity. That’s not bragging. I honestly wish I wasn’t so difficult to surprise. I don’t actively try to figure these things out during movies, but I’ve seen so many flicks that I can see what plot they’re re-using a mile away. It’s the same way with professional wrestling storylines, but that’s a discussion for another time...

I’m gonna stop right here for a moment. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the flick by now, but on the off chance that someone might be reading this who has never seen Saw, don’t read any more of this article. That means SPOILER ALERT! There, you have been warned.

Zep, the orderly, was obvious from the beginning. When he was “revealed” as the guy who was holding the doctor’s wife and son hostage, I just figured that the filmmakers had gotten lazy and not bothered to even make a play for a mystery. When the corpse in the middle of the room got up, my mind was blown. I didn’t see that coming at all.

I’ve heard a lot of people rip this ending to shreds. They say it was a cheat because there was absolutely nothing there to set it up. No clues, no real foreshadowing, no nothing. This is true; it is a bit of a cheat. There are no hints that the dead guy on the floor is actually John, or Jigsaw. It’s also implausible that he laid there so still that he could pass for dead for that long. While we do find out later that he had drugged himself, we didn’t have that info until part three. Right? I’m pretty sure it was three. Anyway, the reason I dug it is that it used a combination of two seemingly opposite story techniques to build the ending. You guys don’t mind if I get a little “pretentious academic literary film school” on you for a second, do ya? Cool, didn’t think so.

The ending is a perfect example of Chekhov’s Gun. No, that’s not a Star Trek reference. It’s referring to 19th century Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. It is a literary technique whereby something seemingly insignificant is introduced early in the story and forgotten about until it suddenly becomes relevant to the plot later. The term comes from his play Uncle Vanya, in which a gun is hung on the wall in the opening moments of act one and never referenced again until much later when, in the climactic scene, a character grabs the gun and tries to shoot someone. The idea is that the audience forgets about the object or character, but when it is reintroduced as a plot point they call back to its earlier appearance. This was used a lot in Scooby Doo for example. Old Mr. So-and-so would be introduced in the opening moments of the episode and never be seen again until the end when they were revealed to be under the mask and gave the whole “and I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling kids” speech. John is introduced briefly about twenty minutes into the film, but he seems to just be there to further Zep’s motive. The big reveal at the end when John gets up and we are flashed back to the scene where Zep describes him as “a very interesting person” leads the audience to a very well done “Oh yeah, I had forgotten about that guy” moment.

The other side of the Chekhov’s Gun principle is the belief that nothing should be introduced that is not integral to the plot. This would seem to be diametrically opposed to the idea of the red herring, which is introduced solely for the purpose of misleading the audience. This is what Zep is. While he is technically integral to the plot, the only real function of his character is to make the audience believe that he is the one running the game. The filmmakers, however, managed to weave him into the plot in a way that using him as a red herring wasn’t cheap. They used him to distract you from the Chekhov’s gun ending, therefore using two opposing literary techniques hand in hand to create a truly surprising twist ending. It even surprised me, and for that I salute James Wan and Leigh Whannell. If only they could have carried that kind of quality on into the later entries in the series.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Strikes Back Day 18: Character you wish you could save from death.

A wise man once said that the first rule of horror movies is that anyone can die at any time. That’s what creates the tension. Therefore if I saved any person from death, it would violate the rules. As much as I would like to save, for example, the Firefly family at the end of Devil’s Rejects so we could have more sequels, it’s against the rules. So if I can’t save a person, I’ll just have to go another route with this one. I’ll have to save something that isn’t human. That’s cool with me. I have a little touch of misanthropy in me. I like animals more than I like most people. That’s not to say I’m antisocial, I’ve just never had an animal stab me in the back.

I love dogs in particular. Me and man’s best friend are pretty tight. A lot of dogs have died in horror movies. Evil or mad dogs, like in Cujo or Man’s Best Friend, I understand. They had to go. The dog in Alien 3 had to go because it was integral to the plot. The plot necessity of offing all of the dogs that have died in the Halloween series is debatable. The one I would save is the rottweiler from Candyman. When Virginia Madsen’s character wakes up in Cabrini Green after her encounter with Candyman in the Parking garage, she finds herself in the apartment of a woman she met earlier holding a meat cleaver. Next to her is a decapitated dog. The woman’s baby is also missing. When the cops show up, she is obviously suspect number one.

You know, just being accused of kidnapping the baby would have sufficed. Killing the dog just wasn’t necessary. Come on Candyman, don’t you think she would have gotten in deep enough trouble without offing the canine? Actually, she did need to be covered in blood for the whole “blood soaked bra” scene to work. Kill a person instead then. I would rather have seen one of the Cabrini hoodrats headless than that dog. Rotts are good dogs. I like that breed. If it had been a chow, no problem. Those suckers are mean. That rott may have looked mean, but he was just protecting his family. I think a person would have been better for the plot too. Most people would have reacted stronger than that. Hell, just have her covered in blood with no explanation. That would have worked too. It could have been a little “whose blood was that” subplot.

Anything, just leave the dog alone. Look at that face Candyman. How can you decapitate that? You heartless bastard! Although, it does lend itself to the hilarious idea of PETA getting shot all to hell while they try to protest at Cabrini Green. Or maybe Candyman could take the hook to Sarah McLachlan in the middle of one of those god awful one-eyed puppy commercials. Wait…that was five times wasn’t it? Oh crap. Hide the dog.

Friday, June 17, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Strikes Back Day 17: Character you would want to talk horror movies with.

I guess in this day and age, with ebay, torrents, and deluxe super ultra limited Criterion ultimate directors cut premium special edition 12 disc blu ray releases for every obscure flick you can think of (with a few notable exceptions), the concept of the “holy grail” movie has disappeared. There’s not a movie any more that it could take years to find a copy of. I’m not that old, I’m only 31, but I remember an era when hunting for rare movies took more than googling. Back in the day, I searched for a couple of years before I found an unrated copy of Return of the Living Dead 3. Until it was released on DVD last year by Shout Factory, who has been putting out some amazing stuff by the way, Galaxy of Terror was another one. The character I would want to talk horror with understands the “holy grail” movie, and takes it to a new level.

Cigarette Burns, directed by John Carpenter, was the best episode of Masters of Horror. That’s saying something too, because there were some really good episodes, primarily in season 1. It’s about a man named Kirby, played by Norman Reedus. Bellinger, played by the legendary Udo Kier, hires him to track down a rare film. This film, titled Le Fin Absolue du Monde (The Absolute End of the World) is cursed. It was shown publicly once, at a festival in 1971. Everyone who witnessed the film went violently insane, rioted, slaughtered each other, and the theater burst into flames. Everyone connected with the film in any way is either insane or dead. The flick holds a bizarre dark power. Bellinger explains to Kirby that he has over eight thousand films in his collection, including “the most extreme images created by some of the most obscure filmmakers from around the world,” but has never seen this film. It is his life’s dream and, since he is dying, he must see it before he kicks off. Bellinger offers Kirby two hundred thousand dollars to track down the film for him. You know I don’t like to give spoilers, so I’ll just say that Bellinger’s tale ends in one of the most poetically fitting ways it could for such an extreme cinefile.

That’s hardcore man! Two hundred grand for a movie? I balked at sixty bucks for Galaxy of Terror on ebay. Bellinger is definitely my kind of film nut. I would love to sit down with him and pick his brain. The guy has eight thousand movies in his collection. I thought mine was getting excessive, and I don’t even quite have two thousand. He also shares my fascination with extreme cinema. I love finding films that test the limits of what film can do, show, or mean. I can only imagine the stuff he could show me. What a wealth of knowledge he would be. He’s also not well, and if we hit it off, I might be able to weasel my way into getting that film collection in his will. After watching Cigarette Burns though…two severed thumbs up, Nathan says check it out, yada yada…I think I’d leave Le Fin Absolue du Monde alone. Eh, who the hell am I trying to kid? I wouldn’t be able to resist it either.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Strikes Back Day 16: Character you would leave to die.

Welcome to Zombie Survival, Group Dynamics, and Not Being a Dumbass 101 folks. Ok, here’s how this is gonna work. I’m going to give you a hypothetical situation. Then, you tell me what you would do. By the way, this little exercise is based on a scenario faced by Rick Grimes in episodes two and three of The Walking Dead. Got it? Ok, here we go…

It’s the Zombie Apocalypse. You wake up in a hospital, barely survive, find that your wife and son are gone, and set off in search of them. You make your way to Atlanta. You get swarmed in the streets, but you meet a small group of survivors who save your life. As you get to know your new comrades, you hear gunshots on the roof. Your first introduction to Merle is seeing him shooting off rounds, wasting valuable ammo, and drawing the zombies to your location. Then the obnoxious coked up redneck starts throwing around racial slurs and attacks another member of the group. When you try to break it up, he jacks your jaw too. He then proceeds to put a gun in the face of the guy he’s assaulting and then wave it around at everyone else in the group demanding that he be put in charge. You manage to get the drop on him and handcuff him to a pipe. He threatens you, telling you that you’d “better pray” if he gets loose. After a harrowing escape from the building, you find out that the guy you gave the handcuff key to dropped it and that Merle is still there. You get back to camp, and miraculously you find your family. You meet Merle’s brother, who is also violent and extremely proficient with a crossbow. He asks about Merle. What do you do?

  1. Tell him that his brother died fighting the zombies, make sure your story is straight with the others, and move on.
  2. Tell him what happened. When he inevitably attacks you, kill him in self-defense. The group goes on without the two douchebags no one liked anyway.
  3. Tell him what happened. Subdue him. Hope he doesn’t decide to avenge his brother some day when your back is turned.
  4. Tell him what happened, and then plan a rescue mission back into the zombie infested city, risking four lives to save a man who is a danger to the group’s survival?

I’m sure most of you said A. That’s what I would do; therefore it’s the correct answer. I’d leave Merle up there to die. To tell you the truth I probably would have tossed him off of the roof into the zombie infested streets before I left. A few of you might have said B or C. A case can be made for those answers, so I’ll accept those too. I can’t imagine that any of you said D, but if you did, you have failed this class. Congratulations, you have poor decision making skills and are probably going to get everyone eaten. Don’t feel too bad though, that’s what Rick Grimes did.

There is absolutely no logical excuse for going back to save Merle. He was attacking and threatening at gunpoint members of your group. He was violently racist. When your survival depends on the unity of your group, that’s not going to fly. The group is better off without him, as his recklessness would most likely get you all killed. What the hell do you think is going to happen the second you get the handcuffs off? You knocked him out and took his spot as alpha male of the group, threw his stash off the building, and left him to die. He’s going to kill you, or at least try. His brother is going to side with him too. Doesn’t seem like a good idea to me.

On top of that, it involves going back into Zombie infested Atlanta. I live 20 miles from Atlanta, it’s not even zombie infested yet, and I only go there when I absolutely have to. Movie screenings, concerts, you know; that kind of life or death stuff. To save a man who wants to kill me that no one but three others had to know was still there in the first place? Hell no! They would have gone with the “the zombies got him” story. Besides, you just found your wife and son. That’s one in a million. The very next day you want to go risk your life and the lives of three others to save a prick like Merle? She’s begging you not to go. Your son is begging you not to go. Your best friend is begging you not to go. The whole group is glad to be rid of Merle. What the hell are you thinking? Your little ideas about it being “dishonorable and inhuman” to leave him mean precisely diddly crap in this situation. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, especially if that few is Merle. Screw Merle. Besides, he’s played by Michael Rooker. Have you seen Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer? That dude’s scary. Let him rot on the rooftop.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Strikes Back Day 15: Killer you could easily kill yourself .

Well, originally I was going to go with something small, like Chucky, the puppets from Puppet Master, or the Zuni Fetish Doll from Trilogy of Terror. How can you be scared of something you could punt across the room? Then EVERYONE went that direction. So I thought to myself; “Self, what’s less menacing than little things? How about a killer that little things beat up?” That’s when it hit me. I could absolutely annihilate Ghostface from Scream.

I think the only horror character that spends a bigger percentage of their on screen time getting their ass kicked is Ash. Sure, Ghostface ends up killing whoever he’s after, but if they didn’t all fall for the horror cliché of not finishing the killer when they have the chance, he would have been dead a long time ago. He’s been knocked out with flower pots and freezer doors, kicked down stairs and knocked unconscious, punched and kicked and stomped to the ground, had his head slammed in doors, etc. And that was all by tiny women! Hell, if Jenny McCarthy had been using real weapons she could have dismembered him!

Honestly, besides the fact that petite ladies routinely put a whoopin on him, I’m surprised he hasn’t impaled himself on his own knife yet. How many times have we seen him slam into walls, fall over furniture, walk straight into a blow to the head, run into something, or “almost” get a hold of someone? Ghostface has got to be the clumsiest killer of all time. I’m only really taking the first 3 Scream movies into account here, so there were 4 Ghostfaces. Every last one has been a character that seemed normal, but as soon as the robe and mask went on they forgot how to properly operate their bodies. If the characters had been physically consistent throughout the film the killer would have been easy to spot. He’s the one tripping over his own feet. Ghostface certainly pulls off some amazing feats of stealth when we can’t see him. Interesting, considering when we can see him, more often than not he’s lurching and flailing like a drunken jackass.

Knife or not, I would mess Ghostface up but good. He depends on the element of surprise. First of all, when people start dying and there’s a killer after my friends and I, I’m going to stay pretty damn vigilant. Second, after all of my haunted house experience, I know the tricks of the trade as far as sneaking around go. I’d see that amateur coming a mile away. Third, when I got him down, I wouldn’t pull that “leave him knocked out” crap. Oh no. It’s “Finish Him!” time, fatality and all. I’m not a violent person, but in a kill or be killed situation it’s balls to the wall, no mercy, “two men enter one man leaves” time.

Lets wrap this little rant up with a tool that has been used for years by boxing, MMA, and professional wrestling to size up the combatants; the tale of the tape. I took the height and weight of the four actors who have been Ghostface (Matthew Lillard, Skeet Ulrich, Tim Olyphant, and Scott Foley.) When I averaged them together, I got Ghostface at 6’ ½” tall and 175 lbs. The four girls that gave him the most trouble (Neve Campbell, Jenny McCarthy, Rose McGowan, and Sarah Michelle Gellar) are an average of 5’4” and 115 lbs. Yes folks, I actually looked up the specs on all of these actors and actresses and did the math. These girls beat the hell out of Ghostface and all would have survived had they had the gumption to take him out when they had him down. I’m a full foot taller and almost triple their weight.

I’m 6’4” and 335 lbs. I’m considerably bigger than Ghostface, who basically got his ass handed to him by girls considerably smaller than him. In the UFC, they wouldn’t even put us in the same class because it wouldn’t be a fair fight. Tell you what, he’s got a big knife, so we’ll call it even. I’ve been in enough bar fights back during my wilder days and “assisted” some of my bouncer friends enough to know how to handle myself against a guy with a weapon who can’t seem to come after you without falling down. Sorry Ghostface, you puny, bumbling, cheap costumed joke, but I’d wipe the floor with you. And just because I’m a big fan of irony, I’d show you up at horror trivia while I did. Bring it!

Review: Hobo With A Shotgun

Guess who’s got a new favorite movie of the year so far. If you said the Son of Celluloid (Nathan is also an acceptable answer) then give yourself 10 points and a pat on the back. I just got home from taking in what may be the best double feature I’ve ever witnessed. It concluded with one of my all time favorites, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. I don’t feel the need to talk about that one right now because, well, if you call yourself a horror fan you should have already seen it. What I am here to discuss is the first half of my night, Hobo with a Shotgun.

Hobo With a Shotgun is another flick based on a fake trailer from Grindhouse. Take a wild guess what it’s about. Yup, that’s right, a hobo with a shotgun. You guys are such smart cookies. Rutger Hauer plays the titular hobo. By the way, if anyone can name the song playing in the scene where he rides the train into town you win mad respect. That’s about all the prize I can muster right now. Hint: it’s from another classic exploitation movie. Anyway, he gets to Hope Town (aka Scum Town or F**k Town) and finds it controlled by a sadistic crime lord named The Drake and his two sons. They violently run the town with iron fists. All the hobo (we never do find out his name) wants to do is save up $49.99 for a lawnmower so that he can start up a business. After he makes friends with a hooker with the obligatory heart of gold, runs afoul of The Drake’s sons, and gets no help from the police, he decides that his money would be better spent on a shotgun. Twelve gauge in hand, he takes to the streets to deliver justice…one shell at a time.

What I’ve told you takes place in the first 15 of this movie’s 86 minutes. I will do my best to give away as little as possible of what happens in the last hour of the film. Take it from me, this is a movie that is best experienced with no idea what’s coming next. Please, for the love of god and for your own sake, don’t read any spoilers before you see this. It will be much more fun that way. I will say that a lot of the plot makes little sense. Hell, it has plot holes that…lets see, how can I describe this? If you took all of the plot holes in Friday the 13th 1-9 and put them in a truck, you could drive it through this films plot holes. That doesn’t matter though. Logic means nothing in a flick like this, and that’s the way it should be. The weirdness, unexpected twists, and “HOLY CRAP!” moments just keep on coming at breakneck speed, and it’s a hell of a ride. It’s like a really great Troma flick if you added a budget and took away the poop jokes.

I dig the visual style of this movie a lot. The filmmakers have managed to make it look like it comes from the grindhouse era without resorting to the fake film defects that were so overused in Grindhouse and Machete. The combination of Technicolor style color saturation and expressionistic lighting that would make Argento jealous gives it a gaudy, dream like quality. The city looks amazing. What a great setting. It reminded me a lot of the setting from Street Trash. When one of the characters insults the hobo by calling him “street trash,” I got the feeling that it wasn’t a coincidence. The camera is very fluid, sweeping and zooming constantly. Occasionally this devolved into that third person shaky cam I hate so much, but there was enough awesome on display here that it didn’t ruin the flick for me.

This is an extremely violent movie. It’s definitely the bloodiest thing I’ve seen in a theater since Hatchet 2. The violence is extremely creative too. We get a hell of a lot of shotgun blasts, but the filmmakers go far beyond that in their bloodletting. We have baseball bats covered in razor blades. We have a lawnmower used Dead Alive style. We have, and I’m not just ripping off Joe Bob here, literal Ice Skate-fu. We have…once again I have to stop. You have to see the stuff they came up with for yourselves. The splatter is amazing. A lot of taboos are broken in this film. The one that most surprised me was the complete disregard for the general “you don’t harm children” rule. There’s a lot of stuff in this film that would offend a lot of people. If you’re reading this blog, however, you’re most likely the kind of person who would get the humor that underlies it all. This is an exercise in bad taste at its finest and most entertaining. The gore effects are excessive and well done. If there was a single CGI effect it was so well hidden that my discerning eye didn’t catch it.

Most of the acting is almost as over the top as the subject matter. It is all grounded by the performance of Rutger Hauer though. He plays the hobo with such a believability and dead serious sincerity that you can’t help but buy into the scenario no matter how ludicrous it becomes. He delivers lines stone faced that lesser actors could never have pulled off without a “wink wink nudge nudge.” He was excellent. The rest of the cast did a good job, but Hauer was the standout. I can’t wait to see him as Van Helsing in Argento’s Dracula. How about that? Two Argento references in an article about a movie he had nothing to do with. Hmmm. The other two standouts were Molly Dunsworth as Abby the prostitute and Brian Downey as The Drake.

The writing deserves a special mention here. Whether or not anything dethrones Hobo with a Shotgun as my favorite movie of 2011, I can’t imagine anything dethroning it as the most quotable. In fact, this is the most quotable movie in many, many years. Maybe even since Office Space. The constant one-liners are so insane that you have to tip your hat to the writers for coming up with this stuff in the first place. It’s a highly stylized way of speaking that, while hilarious, makes perfect sense in the context of the movie. A couple of personal favorites include…

-“First I’m gonna have to wash this guy’s asshole off of my face.”

-“When life gives you razor blades, you make a baseball bat covered in razor blades.”

-“I’m gonna wash this blood off…with your blood!”

..and many many others. There’s one involving Mother Theresa “finger-banging you in hell” that had me laughing so hard that people in nearby rows were staring at me. There’s another one near the end that I’m not going to give away, but it’s so brilliantly cheesy that I’m honestly shocked Arnold never used it back in the 80’s.

I do have two problems with this movie. First is the third person shaky cam. It really irritated me at the beginning of the film. After about 20 minutes though, either they stopped doing it as much or I got so engrossed in the film that I didn’t notice it. The second is a nitpick that I have with a lot of films. I already said that logic isn’t important in a flick like this, but this one thing gets to me. The hobo shoots and shoots, and we see him constantly reloading the shotgun. We see him buy the shotgun. We never see him get any shells. Where’s his ammo coming from? Never mind that the pawn shop had loaded shotguns hanging openly on the wall in this crime infested town. That’s not important. Would it really have been that hard to include a shot of him grabbing a couple of boxes of ammo on his way out? Maybe even someone giving him some shells? I know that’s trivial and nit-picky, but the ammo thing always gets me. At least he had to reload the gun. I hate those “never ending ammo clips” you see in action flicks.

Hobo with a Shotgun is the kind of movie people are either going to “get” or not. I’ve read a couple of bad reviews, but they were by people who don’t like the ultra violent, cheesy, nihilistic, sleazy exploitation cinema of the 70’s and 80’s. If that kind of flick is your thing, you will love this movie as much as I did. If you took a rabid horror freak, showed him grindhouse flicks Clockwork Orange “clamped eyelids” style, fed him an 8-ball of cocaine and 10 hits of acid, then said “tell me a story,” the result would be a lot like Hobo With a Shotgun. It’s a retro ride into pure fun as hell, blood soaked insanity. It’s currently doing limited runs around the country, with a DVD release scheduled for July 5th. I highly recommend seeing it on a big screen. I give it two severed thumbs way up. Nathan says check it out as soon as possible if you are lucky enough to live in an area where it’s playing.

Oh yeah, one last thing before I go. Remember yesterday when I picked the astonishingly hot Mindy Clarke as Julie in Return of the Living Dead 3 as my favorite zombie? Dr. Jimmy Terror over at Dr. Terror’s Blog of Horrors apparently had the same idea and picked her too. I guess great minds think alike. Or maybe in this case, its sick minds think alike. Great sick minds think alike. There, that works. Dr. Terror is a friend of this blog, and has one hell of a cool blog himself. You should most definitely go check it out RIGHT HERE. Tell ‘em Son of Celluloid sent ya.

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