Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The 10 Best Horror Flicks Of 2013 Part 1: 10-6



10 - Escape From Tomorrow

To be honest, there are some movies that were better than this one and didn’t make the list.  Escape From Tomorrow has an intangible quality, however, that fascinates me and makes the flick stick in my mind like that accursed “It’s A Small World After All” song.  Part of it definitely has to do with it being filmed guerilla style inside the Disney amusement parks.  How they were able to pull that off right under the noses of park security is nothing short of indie horror heroism.  The sneakiness, craftiness, and testicular fortitude that took alone means it’s worth checking out.  What makes it more than just a curious piece of filmmaking bravado is the absurd, surreal, “what the hell did I just watch” nightmare it turns into.  For the first half, a dad is losing his grip on reality while on vacation with his family.  You think you know where this is going. At about the midpoint, everything goes haywire and it’s impossible to know what kind of weirdness is going to be thrown at you next.  When it was over, I was left with a “huh, that was messed up” feeling and moved on.  A couple hours later, I found myself thinking about it again.  A couple hours after that, I had to re-watch it.  Somehow this movie will worm inside of your skull and just sit there poking at your synapses with one of those huge, swirly-stick souvenir lollipops until you pay attention to it.  It is, without a doubt, the most unique viewing experience to be had this year.



 
















9 - TIE: V/H/S/2 and All Hallows Eve

It’s my countdown and I’ll have a tie if I want to.  What we have here is a pair of anthologies with one shared characteristic - they’re both awesome despite a lame segment about aliens.  I hated the first V/H/S too, but I implore you to give the sequel a shot.  It won me over with a couple of innovative twists on the tired found-footage gimmick and the outstanding Safe Haven segment.  All Hallow’s Eve is a collection of Damien Leone’s short films with a killer new wraparound story.  It appeared on DVD around Halloween with no fanfare, but turned out to be one of the best “out of nowhere” surprises of the year.  The “Art the Clown” character has franchise potential and could easily carry another couple of flicks.  Anthologies have come back in a big way over the last couple of years.  The results have been mixed, but these are two that are sure to please.



8 - The Battery

Last year I praised Ryan Lieske’s flick Abed for telling an intimate, emotionally affecting story within the framework of a zombie movie.  The Battery did it again this year.  This story of two teammates thrown together as survival partners is a far less glamorized, and refreshingly authentic feeling, view of the zombie apocalypse.  There’s very little undead action.  While a little more might have been fun, it’s the quiet, small moments and the sometimes contentious “buddy flick” trappings that make it all work.  By completely focusing on the two main characters, played perfectly by writer/director Jeremy Gardner and Adam Cronheim, the audience is allowed to get inside their heads and really feel for them.  That way when the third act turns dark and trades the wry humor for tension, that audience relationship pays off in spades.  Add in a couple of great songs and the absolute funniest scene in any movie this year ( which I’ve dubbed the “put ‘em on the glass” scene) and you’ve got a winner.  It’s also inspiring that the movie was made with “prosumer” gear and a $6,000 budget.  The Battery just made everyone else’s low budget excuses null and void.



7 – Maniac

I know, I know.  It’s unthinkable.  A remake made it onto my best flicks countdown.  Hell, I’m just as surprised as you are.  I do loathe 90% of the remakes that come out, but I’m here to tell you that Maniac is the best remake of a classic in at least a decade.  Actually, the two things that worried me the most before seeing it ended up being the two things that won me over.  First, I was sure that, as sick as I am of found footage, I would hate the “POV” shooting style.  Shockingly, it worked.  It didn’t devolve into shaky cam too many times, they cheated at just the right moments, and it actually seemed like a fresh and unique storytelling device.  Second, I was afraid that Frodo was going to try to play Joe Spinell.  Luckily, he decided to put an entirely different spin on his interpretation.  That also worked.  The gore, despite being too CGI reliant at times, looked good.  Co-star Nora Arnezeder hit all the right notes.  The neon sleaze of LA gives the film a flavor both similar enough to and just different enough from the gritty yesteryear New York of the original.  Most importantly, the movie refuses to devolve into a psychoanalytic brood-fest and just goes for the sick psycho thrills.  I’ve seen other reviewers state that this bests its source material.  I would venture that those reviewers are smoking crack, but the new Maniac does stand on its own as a worthy companion piece.



6 – The WNUF Halloween Special
80’s nostalgia was running wild in 2013.  The best thing that came out of that wistful wave wasn’t the overpriced limited edition VHS releases from boutique distributors or the two documentaries that I heard were great but never got to see.  The real apex of 2013’s tape-mania was this gem.  Sorry V/H/S, THIS is the most innovative use of the format as a storytelling device to be devised yet.  The WNUF Halloween Special is a painstakingly recreated October 31, 1987 news broadcast complete with “satanic panic” stories and faux 80’s commercials.  Aside from a brief moment or two where things flirt with being a little too self aware, I could put this on my actual VHS of Halloween specials from 1986 and no one would ever be able to tell the difference.  Hell, I know a couple of people who bought the whole “this is really a lost broadcast that was recorded live and has just been rediscovered” thing hook, line, and sinker.  That’s how convincing it is.  The anchors are in full hype mode, because their field correspondent (along with a couple of hired psychics) is going into a real haunted house... LIVE! One of my earliest childhood memories is watching Geraldo open Al Capone’s empty vault, and this captured that “80’s TV event” feel perfectly.  Of course, everything goes horribly wrong once they’re in the infamous abode.  It's a fun watch and a loving look back at simpler days.  The filmmakers are to be commended for their amazing attention to detail.  This felt exactly like digging out and popping in that long forgotten “TV tape” we all have lurking in the dusty recesses of the attic or basement.  The WNUF Halloween Special is essential viewing for every monster kid from the video store era and a new addition to my annual All Hallow’s watch list.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Five Worst Horror Flicks of 2013



Before we move on to my top 10 films of the last year, I feel that a little air clearing is in order.  I need to get my thoughts about these five cinematic atrocities out of my system so I can get back to being positive.  2013 was by no means a bad year for horror, but there were certainly some flicks that just plain pissed me off and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I let my loyal and beloved readers wander into these pitfalls uninformed, now would I?  I would never do that to you.  So, here are 5 shitty movies that I watched so you don’t have to.  Cellmates, I present to you The Five Worst Horror Flicks Of 2013.



#5 - Texas Chainsaw 3D

For the record, I did enjoy the way Leatherface was portrayed in this flick.  He was exactly what I would imagine an older Bubba Sawyer to be – a wiser, slower, and more deliberate killer.  It made perfect sense.  Unfortunately, that’s where the “making sense” stops.  In the interest of brevity, I’m going to skip the acting non-skills of pop stars and the much touted but completely unsatisfying cameos and get straight to the two most glaring, unforgivable screw-ups.  The movie opens with a scene that supposedly takes place shortly after the first TCM flick ends.  That would make it 1973.  Then we flash forward to “20 years later.”  That would make it when, class?  That’s right, 1993.  Yet gas is almost 4 bucks a gallon and people are using Facetime on their iphones.  That would make it 2013.  Maybe the “20 Years” was a typo.  Nope.  We saw the heroine as a baby in the first scene, so in that case she would have to be 40.  She’s obviously in her mid 20’s though.  If they were playing at some kind of time shift nonsense it would be stupid but semi-logical.  In actuality, it’s just plain ‘ol sloppy writing that should have never made it out of the first production meeting.  That may seem like a nitpick, but when it’s the entire setup for the flick, it’s kind of a big deal.  Inexcusable.  Then Leatherface runs through a Carnival full of people and doesn’t kill anyone.  Read that last sentence again.  Need I say more? This flick earns its place on the list for blowing an opportunity for one of horror cinema’s all time classic bloodbaths and assuming that no one in the audience could do math.



#4 - Dracula 3D

It really does hurt to put this one on the list, ‘cause I do love me some Dario.  I remember being psyched when I heard about it.  But, just like The Misfits, Argento continues to drag his legacy as a master and innovator of the craft through the mud.  Where to start with this one?  Maybe the fact that it took four screenwriters to pen crap like “I am but an out of tune chord in the divine symphony?”  Or we could discuss just how awful the CGI is.  That credits sequence where the camera is zooming around an animated village looked like it was lifted directly out of Tenchu: Stealth Assassins for the PS1.  That’s right, Rikimaru, bitches!  I can’t imagine how bad it looked in 3D.  Then there’s the godawful acting.  It’s like they just said “Keanu Reeves was great as Harker!  Go find us a Spanish version of him.”  It also seems that working with Argento these days drags other greats down, because the score might be the worst work of Claudio Simonetti’s career.  Even Rutger Hauer looks like he’d rather be anywhere but on that set, and he’s what I was looking forward to the most.  The only things that keep it from being a total loss are the ample glimpses of Asia Argento and the gorgeous Miriam Giovanelli in all of their undressed glory and a completely batshit scene where Dracula turns into a giant praying mantis.  Yes, you read that right. Dracula 3D makes the list for making me weep for what could have been.  Can you imagine the badassery of a Dracula flick directed by the Argento of the early 80’s?



#3 - Apartment 1303

There are very few things I dislike more than American remakes of J-horror.  I’m not big on J-horror to begin with (I love Japanese gore flicks but their ghost movies don’t do it for me), but in American hands they’re atrocious more often than not.  I haven’t seen the original, which I’ve been told is a bottom of the barrel Grudge clone.  The remake, however, is about as bad as it gets.  All of the clichés are here; from the creepy kid as harbinger of doom to the wet-haired, jerky CGI ghost to the “young woman in peril must figure out what happened to the last young woman in peril” setup.  There’s no creep factor at all.  No gore.  No scares.  That’s the problem, there’s just nothing to this movie.  Well, there is the unintentional comedy of Rebecca De Mornay’s performance and Julianne Michelle’s hilarious lip quiver thing whenever she cries, but that’s about it.  It’s just a paint-by-numbers generic ghost rehash.  Apartment 1303 makes the list as a recipient of the “Cold Creepy Feeling” award for boring me to tears.



#2 - Embrace of the Vampire

This flick is number two in more ways than one.  You knew we weren’t gonna get through this list without a remake, and this may be the most unnecessary remake of all time.  The main purpose of remakes is to draw casual horror fans in with name recognition, but how many casual horror fans (aside from the Mr. Skin aficionados with a hard-on for Alyssa Milano) even know that movie exists?  Why remake it?  Just… why?   As for the movie itself, it reminded me of those commercials I see for CW dramas; slickly produced but utterly vapid.  The boring cinematography refuses to make the most of a quite picturesque backdrop.  It does that irritating “oh, things are speeding up so something scary must be about to happen” thing that insults the audience’s intelligence.  The vampires look hokey.  Do I need to mention the CGI?  The vampire lore is slightly interesting, but comes into play way too late to save the proceedings.  Hell, even the ample gratuitous nudity couldn’t save them considering they’re all dime-a-dozen anorexic starlet types.  I know that it’s a matter of personal preference, but if you’re gonna watch an awful flick just for the boobs this year, make it Dracula 3-D.  That’s your public service announcement.  This flick is an absolutely braindead exercise in tedium.   Embrace of the Vampire makes the list for sucking more than all of its on screen vampires combined.



#1 - The Purge
Sorry folks, but this is gonna be one angry rant.  How in the name of green dystopian hell do you take a premise that damn good and make a movie this damn bad?  Let’s put aside the fact that the main idea here is completely implausible.  If THAT’S your quibble with this movie, I fear that you have missed the point.  So much fun could have been had with a night of lawlessness, but all they gave us was a mix tape featuring the dumbed-down greatest hits of Straw Dogs, Panic Room, The Strangers, and a dozen other much-better home invasion flicks.  I’m normally pretty forgiving of horror characters doing dumb stuff.  Sometimes it’s necessary.  Not only did the things the characters in this one did not make sense in comparison with what an actual person with an IQ higher than their handgun caliber would do, they didn’t even make sense for the characters as written.  I lost count of the times I thought “there’s no way they’re gonna…” immediately before they did.  Stupid and predictable is a horrible combination.  Anyone that used the word “suspense” without preceding it with “not a shred of” when reviewing this obviously has never seen a horror movie.  There’s even plenty of shaky cam during the action sequences just to make sure we can check off almost everything on my “things I hate about modern Hollywood horror” list.  I think writer/director James DeMonaco had two goals with this film; beat the audience over the head with ham-fisted social commentary and see just how many times a character can be held at gunpoint and saved at the last second.  Seriously, I lost count of how many times they re-used that one.  Oh, and any flick with a 3 million dollar budget and Michael goddamn Bay listed among the producers that tries to pass itself off to the horror press as “the little low budget indie that could” before its release can kiss my ass.  Michael Bay's name should be considered a massively offensive expletive.  In fact, his name should just be a multi-use replacement for ALL expletives.  The Purge makes the list for being a predictable, dumb as Bay, suspenseless, nutless piece of Bay that squandered a Baying fantastic premise and made me want to beat Ethan Hawke, who I usually like, with a Baying crowbar.  What the Bay were they thinking?  Bay this movie.  Bay it up it’s stupid Bay.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Creepmas Horror Tunes Countdown: The Top 3

#3: Matthew McPeck – F**k Christmas (I Wish It Was Halloween)


 Sample Lyrics –
You Hallmark fascists expect me sober
When you start playing your f**king songs in October!
Hark the herald devils sing Halloween.
So to you holiday-loving sons of bitches,
Screw you all and hey, F**K CHRISTMAS!
All I need is my baby, my baby and Halloween.


I’d be willing to guess that there’s not a one of us who hasn’t expressed that sentiment at some point.  Are you looking at the lights and tinsel and wishing that they were jack-o-lanterns and spider webs instead?  Then this is your anthem.  This synth-pop/proto-goth style song expresses exactly how I feel every December and only gets more and more timely as the big day gets closer and closer.


#2:  Screaming Lord Sutch – Creepy Christmas



Sample Lyrics –
The Creature from the Black Lagoon howling carols out of tune
A demon and a vampire roasting chestnuts on a fire
And the one that they call Lestat groovin’ in a party hat
Dr. Jeckyll playing Hyde & seek, they were dancing cheek to cheek.

If you just said “who?” then turn in your horror music lover’s card NOW!  In the 60’s, Screaming Lord Sutch was innovating the theatrical horror shock rock show well before Alice Cooper or Arthur Brown.  He also ran for parliament 40 times as part of the Official Monster Raving Looney Party.  He was an interesting dude to say the least.  In 1989, he and his band, dubbed “The X-Mas Creeps” for this release, unleashed this groovy number about a party I would have killed my grandmother to attend.  For the record, if that sax solo doesn’t get you in the rockin’ holiday spirit, you don’t have a soul.


#1: 
Screamerclauz – 12 Days of Axemess



Sample Lyrics - 
Nope.  Trust me, this one is better when you don’t know what’s coming.

Maybe my favorite Christmas song of all time.  Before he blew our minds and shredded our souls with his demented animated film Where The Dead Go To Die, Jimmy Screamerclauz was horrifying people with his music.  What do you get when a sicko like Screamerclauz mixes a traditional version of a Christmas classic with clips from flicks like Zombie Flesh Eaters, I Drink Your Blood, and Night of the Demons?  Pure hilarity.  The first time I heard this I may or may not have laughed until I peed a little.  Extra horror geek cred if you can name all of the movies and shows he samples.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Creepmas Horror Tunes Countdown # 7-4

#7: Alex Atkinson and Max Hughes – Die Santa Die!

 
Sample Lyrics –
I took his teeth and made a puppet
His arms I slashed to ribbons
Cordless drill to legs and knees
His eyes did stare with sultry pleas

I have to thank Annabelle Lecter from Without Your Head for turning me on to this one.  A little boy (with a suitably creepy voice) sings of his lifelong hatred for Santa and the horrible things he does when he finally gets his hands on the red suited bastard.  I especially like the line about “barbed wire fists.”  Very Carnage Cup.  The video that accompanies the song, animated by Mark Bunting, is the perfect compliment to a great tune.  This is what Creepmas is all about.


#6:  Harley Poe – It’s Christmas Time Again


Sample Lyrics - 
Leave him cookies, leave him beer, stay in bed ‘til morning’s near
Run down the stairs unto the tree, cautious of what you may see
Your parents may be hanging there, thought they made a lovely pair.
It’s Christmas time again. 

Horror-folk artist Harley Poe is one of the fright scene’s best-kept secrets.  He’s kinda like Voltaire, but less pretentious and actually funny.  This is probably the best “Santa as a serial killer” song ever.  Sleigh bells and jangly guitars back a stern warning about making Santa’s acquaintance on Christmas.  You don’t want to find out what’s in his sack!


#5: John Kassir – We Wish You’d Bury The Missus

 
 Sample Lyrics -
 The last thing on Christmas that folks want to see
Are remains of your wife on your lawn Christmas tree
We wish you’d bury the missus, we beg you bury the missus
For gods sake bury the missus, we can smell her down here. 

During the holiday season of 1994, Tales From the Crypt was in its sixth season.  When any franchise is popular for that long, you know a Christmas tie-in is inevitable.  So they released an album called Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas.  I’ve never understood why they didn’t go with “Cryptmas.”  Anyway, it featured John Kassir, the voice of the Cryptkeeper, doing holiday songs and skits with his usual gallows humor and ghoulish puns.  Nearly every track is a classic (we’ll just pretend Christmas Rap never happened), but this one is far and away the standout.  For the record, (see what I did there?), the album usually sells for $25-35 on ebay.


#4:  Lon Chaney Jr. – Monster’s Holiday


Sample Lyrics –
They were making a list and checking it twice
Frankenstein wanted a shiny new trike
A new chain for Yarnush, a brace for Igor's back
A speed shaver for Wolfman, a new cape for Drac

Monster’s Holiday was originally recorded by Bobby “Boris” Pickett in 1962 as a follow up to his immortal classic Monster Mash.  It failed to attract the attention its predecessor did, but that didn’t stop Lon Chaney Jr. from recording a cover version two years later.    To the best of my knowledge, this and the theme song to Jack Hill’s underappreciated film Spider Baby were the only two songs good ‘ol Creighton ever recorded.  Now, I love me some Boris Pickett, but if you ask me, Chaney has the perfect voice to recount this tale of the classic monsters and their thwarted attempt to rob Santa’s sleigh.  Not to be confused with a godawful Buck Owens song of the same name.

Friday, December 20, 2013

420 Reviews: Dracula 3D, We Are What We Are, Bad Milo, All Hallow's Eve, Apartment 1303

A brief explanation: 420 reviews have nothing to do with weed, although I won’t confirm nor deny being high while watching the movies.  The deal is this: Before I had a blog, I did mini reviews on facebook.  Back then, statuses had a 420 character limit.  Now, from time to time I play my little nostalgic word game and try to express my opinions about a flick in EXACTLY 420 characters.  Think of them as fun-sized reviews.

We Are What We Are
I haven’t seen the highly acclaimed 2010 original, but this remake clicks on all cylinders. Well-built tension and good acting make this brooding, low-key creepfest stand out. It’s an intelligent, well-made thriller that still delivers enough of the red stuff to keep the gorehounds happy. I can see this being one of those horror flicks that non-genre movie buffs still take seriously. Yeah, it’s just that good. 8.5/10


Argento’s Dracula 3D
It hurts me to say this, but Argento continues to tarnish his legacy. This flick doesn’t have a hint of the trademark style that made him a master of horror. The only reason to believe he directed this crap is the presence of his naked daughter. Even a game Rutger Hauer can’t overcome painful dialogue, horrendous CGI, the worst score in recent memory, and the sheer stupidity of Dracula as a giant praying mantis. 3/10


Apartment 1303
Take every cliché that the dregs of the American J-horror remake boom taught you to hate, make them dumber, duller, and more hamfisted, and you have Apartment 1303. Nonsensical story line, some of the most illogical characters ever written, and hilarious failed scares. Rebecca De Mornay is pretty funny, but I don’t think she was supposed to be. How the hell did this get a 3D theatrical release? Impressively bad. 1/10


All Hallow's Eve
Comprised of Damien Leone’s short films with a new wraparound story, this anthology came out with no hype at all but turned out to be a nice surprise. The middle segment about aliens falls kinda flat, but just like the crappy aliens in VHS2, the rest of the flick is strong enough to make up for it. I could absolutely see Art the Clown as a franchise character capable of carrying sequels. A great Halloween flick. 7/10



Bad Milo 
I got worried when all the poop jokes started, but Bad Milo manages to rise above shit humor and be low brow but not sophomoric. It’s a flick with a lot of charm, a few genuine laughs, and even a little heart. The puppeteering is as good as the CGI is bad. Peter Stormare is perfectly cast as a kooky therapist, but he’s awesome in everything, right? Don’t let the premise fool you. It’s not as dumb as it sounds. 6.5/10

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Son of Celluloid's Drunken Thanksgiving Special

You know, Cellmates, I get accused of being a little forgetful and scatterbrained at times.  Maybe it's all those blows to the head.  Maybe it's all the brain cells I've killed off.  Maybe all those horror movies really did rot my brain.  Whatever the cause, it just dawned on me that  I posted this video everywhere but here.  On Thanksgiving, Daniel from EC3, Monkey, and yours truly watched Thankskilling 3.  The movie has a drinking game as a DVD bonus feature (brilliant!), and we all got sufficiently hammered.  So, we decided it was a perfect time to do an impromptu video review.  When the Son of Celluloid Show starts, I promise to rarely reach this particular level of intoxication on the air.  Anyway, this is how we spend the holidays at Celluloid Central...
 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Creepmas Horror Tunes Countdown #8: Western Caravan - Psycho


#8: Western Caravan feat. Thirsty Dave – Psycho


Sample Lyrics –
I been dressing up like you, Santa
At a big department store
I met some little boys and girls, Santa
I brought them home, and they’re buried underneath my kitchen floor

This song is a parody of Eddie Noack’s quintessential country murder ballad and ode to insanity, also called Psycho.  You can find a great video of Neil Gaiman singing the original on youtube.  In this outstanding version, our narrator gets a visit from the Jolly One himself and begins confessing all of his psychotic acts.  It’s the calm, earnest way the song is performed that makes it so chilling.  This is one that gets played on repeat at my house around the holidays

Monday, December 16, 2013

Creepmas Horror Tunes Countdown #11-9: Serial Killers, The Westboro Baptist Church, And The Devil Himself!


#11: Macabre – Holidays of Horror


 Sample Lyrics –
Merry Christmas, he gunned his family down
His bullets were their presents, dead relatives all around
Happy New Year, one they won't be here to see
It's the holiday of horror because of Ronald Gene

I think this list needs some more metal.  Enter Macabre, Chicago’s foremost purveyors of “murder metal.”  Almost all of their songs are about real life slayers, and this one is no exception.  In a 1987 killing spree that lasted from December 22 to 28, Ronald Gene Simmons killed 16 people (including 14 family members).  He got lethal injection, and we got this kick ass tune.  It’s a wonderful reminder of just how crazy some of us go on the holidays.  God, I love this band.



#10:  Westboro Baptist Church – Santa Claus Will Take You To Hell


 Sample Lyrics –
Don’t leave your kids with this red fright
Just like the priests he’ll rape ‘em at night…
So get this fact straight, you’re feeling God’s hate
Santa’s to blame for the dead soldier’s fate
Santa Claus will take you to hell.

Time for a little real life horror in the form of my old buddies the prophets of hate.  The Westboro Baptist Church, who kindly agreed to participate in this year’s What Halloween Means To Me countdown, apparently see Santa as a pagan idol and an affront to God.  They blame him for everything from the economy to war.  This video, featuring the WBC’s children holding “Fag Santa” signs and singing about rape, is truly a sight to behold and probably the scariest thing you will see this Christmas.  This one's straight up batshit nuts.


#9: 
Ed Harcourt – The Devil Came Down The Chimney


Sample Lyrics –
Razor wire for tinsel toe.  Blackened ash instead of snow.
Reindeer roasting on a barbecue, with Santa’s sleigh in the fire as fuel.
Christmas lights are a hangman’s noose.  Hand grenades in the golden goose.
They nailed an elf to a crucifix and got their kicks on Route 666.


Apparently the world was extra bad this year, because Santa took the year off and Satan came riding in to remake the holiday season in his image.  To be honest, I kinda like what Old Scratch has done with the place.  This darkly swinging number from Ed Harcourt reminds me a lot of something that Nick Cave would write.  It just has that feel.  The only video I could find is this live performance, which isn't bad, but you owe it to yourself to track down the studio version.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Creepmas Horror Tunes Countdown #12: Harley Poe - It's Christmas Time Again


Harley Poe – It’s Christmas Time Again

 
Sample Lyrics –
Leave him cookies, leave him beer, stay in bed ‘til morning’s near
Run down the stairs unto the tree, cautious of what you may see
Your parents may be hanging there, thought they made a lovely pair.
It’s Christmas time again. 

Horror-folk artist Harley Poe is one of the fright scene’s best-kept secrets.  He’s kinda like Voltaire, but less pretentious and actually funny.  This is probably the best “Santa as a serial killer” song ever.  Sleigh bells and jangly guitars back a stern warning about making Santa’s acquaintance on Christmas.  You don’t want to find out what’s in his sack!

420 Reviews: The Battery, Frankenstein's Army, Hell Baby, Hidden In The Woods, The Purge


A brief explanation: 420 reviews have nothing to do with weed, although I won’t confirm nor deny being high while watching the movies.  The deal is this: Before I had a blog, I did mini reviews on facebook.  Back then, statuses had a 420 character limit.  Now, from time to time I play my little nostalgic word game and try to express my opinions about a flick in EXACTLY 420 characters.  Think of them as fun-sized reviews.



Hell Baby

I hated RENO 911, so I expected to hate this. Turns out, it’s not so bad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s dumb as hell, but there are a few good laughs. There’s even a well timed jump scare or two. The cast of familiar Comedy Central faces is good enough. The big problem is the “Family Guy” tendency to let a gag go on way too long. If you like lowbrow horror parodies but the Wayans are too stupid, give Hell Baby a try. 6/10



 
The Battery

This post apocalyptic buddy flick has a pair of perfectly cast leads, actual character development, a lot of heart, great dialogue, and the absolute funniest scene in any film this year. It gets pretty tense in the final act too. It’s hard to make “zombie” flicks feel fresh these days, but this does. Things do get a little slow here and there and a bit more action would have been nice, but overall it’s a winner. 8/10




The Purge

How the hell do you take a premise this good and make a flick this bad?  Any pitiful attempts at suspense were undone by the absolute predictability. The “brutal” violence was anything but, most of the acting sucked, and the script just did not work. Ethan Hawke loses any points he had regained with Sinister. The only reason this doesn’t get a zero is because Rys Wakefield was pretty good as the evil pretty boy. 2/10



Hidden In The Woods

This Chilean exploitation romp delivers five star sleaze. Rape, incest, cannibalism, buckets of blood, a mongoloid, drug dealers, blowjobs, and chainsaws murders. What else could you ask for? Acting? Maybe a coherent story? Nah, this is just good unwholesome fun. There’s way too much shaky-cam for my taste, but when they hold the camera still it’s shot beautifully. No brain, just blood, guts, boobs, and cajones. 7/10



Frankenstein’s Army
It’s a damn shame this was a found footage flick. In a few spots it did work, giving the feel of running through a haunt, but overall the gimmick marred what was an otherwise fantastic ride. Decent gore, great sets and some of the best monster design in years still made this one a real treat to look at. The acting was good even if some of the accents were sketchy. Most importantly, this movie was just plain fun. 7/10

Creepmas Horror Tunes Countdown #13: Team Death - He's Dead


Team Death - He's Dead

 

Sample Lyrics - 
I feel sickened as the Christmas Lights glisten
I see a couple under the mistletoe kissin'
My vision's twisted so I creep up very slowly
Stab them both with some icicles because the devil, he controls me

How about a little rap to mix things up?  SickTanicK(the mastermind behind Serial Killin’ Records) and Razakel (the reigning queen of horrorcore) are bringing their trademark bloodshed and blasphemy to the holidays.  On this track, the couple drop acid and go hunting Christians, children, and anyone else enjoying the holidays.  Their whole Unholy Noel EP is as dark, hardcore, and occult obsessed as it gets.  Those with more delicate sensibilities should steer clear.  My fellow sick freaks, however, will revel in the depravity.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Creepmas Horror Tunes Countdown #15-14: Zombies and Lovecraft Edition

Apparently I forgot to do one of these yesterday, so here's another double shot.  I think I'll do the last two songs about zombies...

#15 Emmy the Great and Tim Wheeler – Zombie Christmas


Sample Lyrics –
They came in through the chimney when the people in the house were sleeping
They didn't fill our stockings and there wasn't anywhere to hide
Well I don't want to have my last Noel, We'd better kick those zombies back to Hell
If we want to live to tell of the Zombie Christmas 


Emmy the Great is a London based singer/songwriter.  Tim Wheeler is the singer/guitar player for the Irish rock band Ash.  Honestly, I can’t say that I’m a fan of either one on their own.  Together, however, they made a cool Christmas album called This Is Christmas.  Zombie Christmas is by far the best track.  Zombies on Christmas isn’t exactly a novel idea, but this poppy/rocky little ditty certainly makes it fun.  I guarantee that when the zombies come to eat your brain, this one will be stuck in it. 


#14 The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society – Harley Got Devoured By The Undead

Sample Lyrics –
He’d been reading lots of weird books
And I begged him not to go
But he’d brook no procrastination
To learn the truths that mankind mustn’t know 

The HPLHS was founded in 1984.  Since then, in addition to many radio drama, musical, and film projects (including the excellent The Whisperer In Darkness), they’ve released two collections of Lovecraft themed Christmas parodies.  A Very Scary Solstice and An Even Scarier Solstice are both well worth purchasing.  It was truly difficult to choose one song from among gems like I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth, Carol of The Old Ones, Away In a Madhouse, and Go Summon Up The Dead Ones, but this one will really wrap its tentacles around ‘ya.  Harley Got Devoured By The Undead (obviously a parody of Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer) is based on The Statement of Randolph Carter, and it’s one of the few tracks that the uninitiated can appreciate because it tells the whole story.  I mean, it’s basically a musical audiobook.  Cthulhu is coming to town, and you just might be spared if you’re listening to this… might.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

420 Reviews: Antiviral, The Seasoning House, Resolution, Among Friends, Embrace of the Vampire


The Seasoning House
This interesting twist on the well-trod rape/revenge formula is about as intense as it gets. I’m kinda baffled at how a movie with rape scenes this horrific doesn’t feel exploitative. Good gore, outstanding performances from Rosie Day and Sean Pertwee, a bleak as hell atmosphere, perfect pacing, and some killer art direction add up to a must see flick. Paul Hyatt’s directorial debut is both brutal and beautiful. 9/10

Resolution
Resolution is proof that you do not need a big budget or flashy visuals to tell an effective, creepy story. The plot, while simple, throws in enough weirdness that you can never really predict the endgame. Vinny Curran is brilliant as good-hearted junkie Chris. His chemistry with costar Peter Cilella feels genuine, adding a “buddy flick” emotional core. The film’s downfall, however, is an unsatisfying final act. 7/10


Among Friends
Danielle Harris directs competently enough and has a nice fan-service cameo. AJ Bowden is predictably good. There’s plenty of fun, grisly violence and some clever plot twists, but something doesn’t click. I think it’s that all of the characters are so damn unlikable that there is no one to root for. The premise of airing everyone’s shocking dirty laundry isn’t as effective if we hate them all from the beginning. 5/10


Embrace of the Vampire
I don’t watch a lot of CW or WB teen dramas, but I have a feeling this remake is a lot like those. Boring cinematography. Routine plot. Generic, skinny actresses. Vapid actors. Bad CGI. Awful music. Unnecessarily convoluted vampire lore. It’s so hamfisted that the good girls are all blonde while the bad girls have dark hair. Wouldn’t want anyone to have to think, now would we? At least there are gratuitous tits. 2/10

Antiviral
Brandon Cronenberg delivers the kind of visceral, smart body horror that I wish his papa still did. Antiviral is as thought provoking as it is visually arresting. Caleb Landry Jones is impressive, Malcolm McDowell drops by to chew some scenery, and the ideas are original enough to carry the flick through some slow spots and plot holes. It may beat you over the head with the theme, but at least it’s a timely one. 9/10

Monday, December 9, 2013

Creepmas Horror Tunes Countdown #16: Angry Snowmans - Horror Christmas


Angry Snowmans – Horror Christmas



Sample Lyrics –
Too much horror Christmas, fly my sleigh at night
Time to decorate!  My windows are lit.
You don’t go near the mistletoe with me.


Ah, my favorite Christmas-centric band.  Angry Snowmans have released three albums of killer punk X-mas parodies.  They give the candy cane treatment to bands like Fear, Dead Kennedys, D.I., Bad Religion, Black Flag, Agent Orange, and a whole lot of other bands my punk rock knowledge is too limited to recognize. My favorites, however,  are their sendups of my favorite band of all time, The Misfits.  Every one of their releases is essential yuletide listening, so head on over to their Bandcamp page HERE and pick them up.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Creepmas Horror Tunes Countdown #17: MXPX - Christmas Night of the Zombies


MXPX – Christmas Night Of The Zombies 

 
Sample Lyrics –
I dreamt that there were zombies right outside my window Christmas night
Hungry for some flesh to eat, but I was hungry for a fight
The living dead they walk the earth to bite on you and tear through me


I’m gonna shoot straight with you… I hate MXPX.  Hate them.  My little brother drug me to see them in a church basement one time.  They’re exactly what I hate about mainstream pop punk.  However, every now and then a bad I can’t stand makes a song I really like, and this is such a case.  It’s a cool little ditty about Christmas zombies.  What else do you need to know?  Paint the snow red, boys!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Creepmas Horror Tunes Countdown #18: Wednesday 13 - Buried By Christmas


#18 Wednesday 13 – Buried By Christmas

 

Sample Lyrics –
Seasons beatings and a jolly farewell
By Christmas Eve, I'll be rotting so well
In a one horse open sleigh
Straight to hell laughing all the way


He just might be the hardest working man in horror rock, and he plans to spend the holidays six feet under the snow.  Wednesday 13 has been the frontman of at least 5 different bands including The Murderdolls, Manic Spider Trash, and Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13.  He’s also a prolific solo artist and is damn good live.  This killer slice of festive glam-horror comes from his first, and my favorite, of his solo albums Transylvania 90210.
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