Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Flashback: Silver Bullet (1985) : Full Moons and Private Justice

In honor of the blue moon tonight, I deemed it appropriate to reminisce about what else than a werewolf film.  Based on the Stephen King novella Cycle of the Werewolf, Silver Bullet is a classic 80's werewolf flick that sometimes seems more like a coming of age movie than a horror film.

 Not exactly frightening, it's still a fun ride and does have several recognizable actors in it.  Starring The Lost Boys alum Corey Haim (back in the day, before he was part of the dynamic duo of Corey (Haim) & Corey (Feldman), Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables), Everett McGill (Twin Peaks, The People Under the Stairs), Terry O'Quinn (LOST, The Stepfather), and the ever-popular Gary Busey (does he really need an introduction?). 

Haim stars as Marty, a pre-teen paraplegic who has a souped-up wheelchair and a penchant for pulling pranks on his older sister.  Said sister is Jane, who narrates the film (as an adult thinking back) and is expected by her parents to help Marty at every turn. 

They live in the small community of Tarker's Mills, where something strange is afoot (literally).  A series of grisly murders has put a pall over the town, causing a curfew to be set in place and folks to hide in their homes after dark.  Local authorities, headed up by O'Quinn as Sheriff Haller, are at a loss, unable to explain why it appears like a monster is picking through the town for its evening meals.

When Marty's friend Brady is killed, a group of townsfolk decide to go all vigilante and take off into the woods to look for whomever or whatever is gruesomely murdering people left and right.
As the audience, we are well aware that the culprit is a werewolf.  If we couldn't have figured it out, the ominous music that plays every time the wolf is circling its prey gives it away. 
When several of the justice league are taken down by the wolf,  Reverend Lowe (McGill)  takes it upon himself to try to get the town to stop taking matters into their own hands. He begins to have disturbing dreams about the savage deaths of community members.

Marty's Uncle Red shows up at the height of the murders, pissing off his sister by acting like the drunken fool he apparently is.  But Marty adores Red, and the feeling is obviously mutual, with Red presenting Marty with a brand new set of wheels.  A cross between a wheelchair and motorcycle, the two dub the gift 'Silver Bullet', and though Marty is told to be careful and not go anywhere alone due to the gravity of the town situation, Marty doesn't listen too well and goes off on his own with the Silver Bullet.

While setting off fireworks near a local covered bridge in the dead of night, Marty is startled by the werewolf, who has shown up uninvited for a midnight snack.  But Marty is able to shoot a firework rocket into the wolf's eye, maiming it.  As Marty speeds away on his bike, it's obvious that we are soon going to know just who the werewolf is - with an injury to the eye he or she will be easy to pick out.

Which is exactly what happens.  As Marty tries to convince Jane and Uncle Red that there is a werewolf in town, we are privy to his identity - which lends a whole new aspect to the movie.  And when the trio discover who the werewolf is, things again shift and it's all about ending the wolf's wrath. 

Silver Bullet is no Dog Soldiers.  Nor is it An American Werewolf in London.  It's not Ginger Snaps or The Lost Boys - and it's not even The Howling.  But it is a fairly decent film with above average acting and some supremely cheesy moments that many fans of the 80's have a sentimental love for.

There does seem to be an unusual amount of graphic violence at times, and more blood than the film really deserves.  Silver Bullet should have absolutely been rated PG, as it just doesn't have the chops to be an R-rated horror film. But with Stephen King penning the screenplay it's my feeling that he amped up the gore and made sure it wouldn't be "just another kid's scary movie".
At this point in time, it seems fairly campy, but that's part of the fun of it.  While I used to think the werewolf special effects were really good, I realize now that they are relatively mediocre. But they are actually not too bad for practical effects for the time, and the plot has a bit of mystery that keeps it interesting till the end.  (But I have to say, for a really cool werewolf, you need to look to The Howling, four years Silver Bullet's junior)

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Birthday 44 - My Personal Path To Horror, Part Two

Here's part two of my journey to horror.  This got a bit long-winded in parts. But I won't apologize because you'll either read it or you won't.  Missed part one? Click here.


 23) The Woman in Black. Not just the book.  Not only the movie.  All of it.  Every version. It is the STORY. So frightening.  I read this book in my early twenties and thought at first that it was written back in the early 1900's.  It has the classic feel of an M.R. James story.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was written in 1983! Susan Hill has crafted such a legitimate tale of dread and terror that I've yet to find something I enjoy more. Simply put, it is my favorite ghost story. 

24) Marble Hornets:  A prime example of what the internet can do to you. Experience it.
Marble Hornets is a found footage-type of internet series that you can find easily on YouTube.  In it, a narrator tells the story of his friend Alex, who while filming his first film project (aptly titled Marble Hornets), seems to become more and more paranoid. He is convinced someone (later known as Slender Man) is following him and that he is in danger.  The film idea seems to fly out the window and Alex starts filming himself almost exclusively to try and get footage of the enigmatic Slender Man.  All I will say is that this simple online series scared the utter bejesus out of me.  Don't watch it before you settle in for the night's sleep.  Consider yourself warned.

25) My grandparents basement.  As a kid, I lived in the parsonage (which is another word for the house that the minister lives in, usually beside the church) with my mom and grandparents until my mom remarried when I was seven.  My grandparents also babysat me until I was old enough to be home alone - so I have a vast set of memories from their house.  And their fucking terrifying basement. For one thing, it had a fruit cellar.
A FRUIT CELLAR!! Hello, Norman Bates! Welcome home Mother!  Obviously I hadn't seen Psycho yet at that age but can totally understand now why it scared the shit out of me.  The fruit cellar smelled like dirt and had a single bare bulb dangling on a string.  The basement also had a primitive bathroom - just a toilet sitting in a wooden stall with a door on it. Good god almighty it had me wigging out every time I had to go down there. And going down the steps was a fright because there was no back on the steps - anyone could grab your feet from under the steps!  But worst of all, it had a huge clawfoot table that had dragons (well, they looked like dragons) carved into them. It was a dusty red color and I could swear the eyes of those dragons were staring at me.
Eeep! I can't even talk about it anymore.

26) M.R. James - "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad": A brilliant and scholarly Englishman, Montague Rhodes James wrote an unbelievable collection of ghost stories that are truly some of the scariest tales you will ever read.  My most favorite is the above mentioned story, and follows his usual strategy of an ordinary man put in an extraordinary and supernatural circumstance. I could write about James and his chilling works for ages.  So I'll stop here and hope that this prompts others to discover him and his fabulously spooky tales.

27) Vincent Price:  Saturday afternoons with The Pit & The Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death, and Theatre of Blood.  Too many more to mention. Vincent Price entertained my mother and I for hours at a time with those old Castle & Corman flicks.  It really was my first introduction to Edgar Allan Poe, too.  And once I learned how many of Price's films were adaptations from the writings of Poe, I had to start reading the original stories. I still have a very special place in my heart for Vincent Price. I feel like he was my tutor, my guide into the world of horror.  And I thank him.

28) Black & White horror:  Carnival of Souls. Night of the Living Dead.  Black Sunday. Freaks. Psycho.
Some of my favorite horror films ever are not even in color. There is something that makes me pause when I am channel-surfing and land on an older movie like that.  Probably my first horror film in black and white was Night of the Living Dead.  Being from the Pittsburgh area meant there was no escaping that film, and I remember well watching it on Chiller Theater late Saturday nights with our host, Chilly Billy Cardille. Ah, those were the days.  But even now, black and white is one of my favorite ways to experience horror. Look how awesome those black and white scenes are from Blair Witch...

29) Horse Camp (tent camping) - As a young girl and into my teens, I used to go to a church camp for a week or two every summer.  Besides the obvious religious overtones, there was a theme.  Some kids went to White Water Rafting camp, some went to Explorer's Camp. I went to Horse camp. (See, I've always loved horses, since I was a little wee one.)  When I was in high school, campers slept in well-appointed cabins, but when I was in elementary school, campers slept in tents.  For a week.  In the woods. Granted, they were fairly big tents - slept around 8 kids and one counselor.  But hot damn it was scary!  I recall one summer night we had a horrific thunderstorm - and when you're eight, that is a major deal.  It was creepy as hell in those tents. But deep down, I liked being scared.

30) Willy Wonka / The Wizard of Oz:  Nasty stuff indeed for impressionable young children such as myself. Funny enough, what scared me the most in The Wizard of Oz wasn't the Wicked Witch of the West, or even Ms. was that freaking twister!  (That twister that was made with a muslin sock and some dirt...) Probably why I have such a thing for extreme weather now.  As for Wonka, I was particularly unnerved by the boat ride down the chocolate river.  Think ol' Wonka was tripping on acid a bit...
These two films scared me enough as a kid to realize I enjoyed the tense feeling.

31) The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew:  As a pre-teen, I read every Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew book that was written.  Did you know they first appeared in 1927?  They were a mystery series written by many different writers but under the pseudonyms of Franklin Dixon and Carolyn Keene.  Those books sharpened my crime-busting skills and kept my nose in a book for most of my childhood.  With titles like The Secret of the Old Clock and The Mystery of Cabin Island, you knew you were in for a spooky adventure.  Until I graduated to Stephen King and Agatha Christie, the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew mysteries kept this girl's time occupied for countless hours.

32) Vampires: I've always had a soft spot for the fanged wonders.  From reading Dracula as a kid, to True Blood today, I just cannot get enough vampires.  For several years, I only read vampire fiction.  I've since broadened my horizons, but I still prefer a little toothy adventure sometimes.  Vampires are nasty. Vampires are sensual.  They can rip your throat out or dazzle you with their Colgate smile.  They will always be my favorite monster, and my fave horror sub-genre.  Thank you Bram Stoker, for bringing these creatures into the mainstream where they have thrived for so long.

33) The Bible:  Yes. "The" Book. I was raised in the house of a Methodist preacher and was taught all those bible stories as a youngster. I always gravitated towards the scarier elements, like when Jonah was swallowed by the whale and lived to tell the tale. Think that one got me prepared for Jaws. Then there was Lazarus - raised from the dead! A probably precursor to my love for vampires? Or maybe Night of the Living Dead?  And oh my! Jesus being crucified? What is up with these Romans!? And don't even get me started on the book of Revelations.

34) Lucio Fulci and Eye Trauma:  (From the Bible to Fulci.  Don't see that too often.) Nothing bothers me more than something oogy happening to the eyes. That scene from Hostel where he cuts her eyeball and all that goop comes out?  Bad, but still not as gruesome as my pal Fulci's penchant for all things optical messiness. In The Beyond we get eye-eating spiders, in Zombi 2 we get a splinter piercing the eye, in The New York Ripper a guy cuts a woman's eyeball with a razor blade, in City of the Living Dead we get bleeding eyes...even in Fulci's historical Beatrice Cenci we get a spike drove through the eye...
So picture me as a fourteen year-old, getting my first taste of serious gore - and it had to be eye trauma.

35) Ozzy Osbourne.  I should add Black Sabbath in general here.  When I was thirteen, I went through a stage where I listened to Ozzy and Black Sabbath continuously.  I'm sure it had something to do with me being a minister's granddaughter and trying to get out from under that stigma, but I just wanted to go dark. Listening to the lyrics of some of those songs made me want to kill myself  made me more interested in things I knew nothing about. Dark things. When you added in music from the likes of Kiss, AC/DC, and Alice Cooper, I liked being the bad-ass.  While my friends were listening to The Go-Go's and Rick Springfield, I was listening to Diary of a Madman for the 300th time. Nowadays this wouldn't even be considered "dark" music but back in the day parents cringed and prayed for their child's soul if he was listening to Blizzard of Oz...

36) Twin Peaks:  I've rambled on and on about this cult favorite here on the blog and elsewhere.  The very first night I sat down to experience Twin Peaks, I remember I couldn't wait to see episode two. It was a truly quirky yet atmospheric television show. The deep, dark woods of the Pacific Northwest took center stage and proved the perfect backdrop for an underlying evil that permeated every pore of the infamous logging town.  All it took for me was a single stoplight, blowing in the wind as Angelo Badalamenti's haunting score set the scene...I was hooked.  If only it had been on HBO - I believe it would have had several seasons. I still miss it.

37) Disney films - So many villains, so little time.  My favorite was Maleficent, the evil antagonist from Sleeping Beauty.  Not only is she the most bad-ass of the villains, she can turn into a goddamned bitchin' dragon. Now tell me - how cool is that?  As a sensitive youngster, I was fairly terrified of her - and still am to this day.  Cruella de Vil ain't got nothin' on Maleficent. Nor does the old hag from Snow White or the horrible step-mother and step-sisters from Cinderella. Maleficent even goes as far as to say that she will unleash "all the powers of Hell" to stop Sleeping Beauty's true love (a prince, natch) from finding her. You know, that's some pretty heavy stuff for a Disney film.  I mean, telling kids about Hell at that age?  So many of the Disney films have extremely dark premises. Kids love 'em, parents love that their kids love 'em, and so scores of children experience evil - unintentionally, but it's there nonetheless.

38)  The Blair Witch Project:  One of the most successful independent films of all time, Blair Witch is such an exceptionally simple premise, but packed a punch and terrified millions of people 'round the world. Three twenty-somethings head into the woods, prompted by a local legend of a child-killer who murdered seven children and claimed that a witch that lives in the woods forced him to do it.  The trio head off to look for the witch and get lost in the woods.  The last five minutes of this movie caused me not to sleep for probably three weeks. Once you've seen it, the thrill is gone and it's not the same the second time around. But that first viewing - it's burned on my brain for all eternity.  I can still close my eyes and see that last scene.  I will never forget this movie.

39) Grimms' Fairy Tales:  1812.  The stories collected by the Grimm brothers were some of my first bedtime stories. Yep, my family was warped.  Can you imagine telling your child the story of an evil witch who lived in the forest and lured children to her cottage so she could EAT them?  Cannibalism? Really? Or how about Rapunzel, where a teenager was locked away in a tower so no boys would have sex with her one would find her.  Or Snow White, who was ordered to be killed by her evil step-mother, poisoned by an apple, and put in a glass coffin?  All of the tales originated in Germany, which perhaps explains a lot. I too, am half German - which perhaps explains a lot as well.

40) J-Horror: The captivating sub-genre of J-Horror is just that.  Japanese horror films. Most of them have been remade into Americanized versions, and some have been done well (i.e. The Ring, The Grudge), but the original versions are almost always superior.  Ringu is a chilling example of J-Horror done well. If you're not affected by seeing this movie, you're either lying or full of shit.  Dark Water, Kwaidan, Ju-On, and Premonition are all really effective as well. They are creepy, unnerving, and if you've only seen the American remakes of these films, you are missing out.

41) The X-Files:  The truth is out there:  I wholeheartedly miss The X-Files.  I was a die-hard from episode one.  I recall it not being very popular when it started out, seemed like a show that no one was watching.  But I was.  More a fan of the stand-alone episodes (like Home, Squeeze, and Irresistible) than the conspiracy episodes.  But the mythology of The X-Files is what drove the show to multiple awards and a huge fan following for nine seasons and two films.  It left a huge imprint on me and I've never found another show that meant as much to me. Still waiting....

42) Cornfields:  Combined with alcohol and the company of my ghost-hunting pals in high school, cornfields are pretty fucking scary. I went to the theater in 1984 to see Children of the Corn, and could never get those images of Malachai and Issac out of my head.  We used to run through the fields in the dead of night, trying to purposely get lost and scare the crap out of each other. We were obnoxious and stupid and probably ruined our fair share of crops, but it was scary as hell and we loved it.  I even went as far as to spend the night in a cornfield with a couple friends.  Issac never showed up, but the morning dew did and we got soaked through and through.
My niece Alaina already loves cornfields, as you can see!

43) True Blood: I already prattled on about my love of vampires. But as a die-hard horror fan, True Blood is like my catnip.  I'd already read Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire series of books about the goings on in Bon Temps, but to have Sookie, Bill, Eric, and (thank you Alan Ball) Alcide brought to life has just about made my life.  Season 5 has just concluded and I am more anxious than ever to find out what is going to happen to all the vamps, werewolves, shifters - heck, even the fae - next season.  The show is campy good fun, and no one - I mean NO ONE - can make a vampire death as much fun as True Blood does.  Splat! doesn't even cover it.  Just awesome stuff. Long live True Blood.

44)  The Shining:  There's no getting around it. The Shining is one of my biggest influences in my horror existence.  I love the Stephen King novel (it's my second favorite novel, next to Straub's Ghost Story), but here I am talking about the Kubrick film.  There are so many wonderfully spooky images in this movie - and even with Jack Nicholson's suppposed over-the-top performance (I for one, LOVE it), it still stands as one of the best horror films of all time. 
I have loved it since the first time I saw it, and watch it at least two or three times annually. It is just the true definition of horror, and it scares me to death. What a great feeling!

*Thanks for reading part two.  At this point I'm glad I only turned 44.  I don't think I could have done it if I were 60. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Bride of Re-Animator

Color Me Blood Red


Wicked Little Things

Don't Look Up

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Bloody Sunday



From Beyond the Grave

The Strangers

Horror Rises from the Tomb

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Birthday 44 - My Personal Path To Horror, Part One

*In honor of my birthday this past week I decided to think back about all the various influences in my life that made me the horror fan I am today.  There are so many random things that I thought of that this list really became a real hodge-podge of weird stuff.  Some are extremely obvious if you know me or have read this blog on a long-term basis.  Other items will surprise. And it got so long I had to split it into two parts, because I wanted 44 total.
Only one guess why.

1) Jaws:  I adore everything about Jaws. So much so that I just bought the brand-spankin' new Blu-Ray - and I don't own a  Blu-Ray player yet. There is no doubt on this earth that this film would make the top of any list of favorites for me, for anyone that knows me knows I live and breathe this blockbuster and this one.....

2) Psycho: I've oft said Norman Bates is my homeboy, and those words are truth. I've had a long-standing love affair with him and the Bates Motel for oh....say, 30 years or so.  That's longer than I've been married. Sometimes I feel wed to this movie, as any time I'm feeling down it cheers me up.  xoxo

3) Ghost Story: The Novel.  While I'm a huge fan of the film, it was Peter Straub's excellent book that really spooked me out.  I'd read several Stephen King novels before picking this one up (on King's recommendation, actually) - but I was blown away by it's dreadful tone. It just reeks creepy and is my favorite novel.  Period.

4) The Liberty Theatre:  I grew up watching movies at this old theater (since torn down) in my home town.  And though I was too young to watch significant horror here, I watched many an old Disney film here, and was blessed with seeing my first sci-fi film here: Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  I vividly recall the poster for Jaws being on the Marquee though, and I can still smell that musty scent and the stale popcorn if I close my eyes....

5) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:  I've been mesmerized by this Washington Irving short story for most of my life.  I read it as a young girl and its vivid imagery always stuck with me. I was able to recognize chilling atmosphere in the written word, even back then. Great stuff!

6) John Carpenter.  Long before Fulci, Cronenberg and Argento came John Carpenter.  The man knows how to subject his victims theater-goers to a real scare.  The first time I saw Michael Myers standing behind that clothesline in Halloween, I shuddered in my Nikes and knew I was done for. What a thrill!

7) Clue:  The board game.  While not firmly planted in the horror genre, it sits in my favorite sub-genre of mystery and is near and dear to my heart.  There is no possible way to count how many times I discovered it was Professor Plum in the Billiard Room with the Candlestick.

8) Stephen King:  As a too-young reader of many of King's early works like Carrie and  The Shining (still my #2 book, all-time), King showed me the path to horror and I spent countless nights under my covers with a flashlight to try and finish one of his tales without my mother making me go to sleep! I still consider him my favorite author.

9) Edgar Allan Poe:  Discovering Poe in probably the eighth grade or so made such an impression on me that I tried my hand and writing macabre poetry for several months.  I may or may not have succeeded - some day I need to pull out all those old notebooks.  Nevermore.

10) Friday the 13th (1980):  Recently I waxed poetic in great detail about the slasher film that jump-started my life-long obsession with horror. I've seen this campy (sorry, had to) cautionary tale of woe at Camp Crystal Lake more times than almost any other horror film (save my top two). I remember watching it on a weekend sleepover at my house, four or five of us screaming in all the right places.  Do not pass not collect 200$...but do take off your boots and stay for a game of strip Monopoly...

11) A Christmas Carol: Written by Dickens in 1843, this short story scared the poop out of me when I was younger.  My grandfather (the minister!) used to read it to me, acting out all the various voices - except the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. He'd just point.  Gah!  Still makes me shudder.

12) Halloween: The Holiday.  I've always loved the most wonderful day of the year.  Whether I was dressed up as a gypsy and trick-or-treating, hanging out in cornfields downing beverages I was too young for, or just simply having a horror film fest on the comfort of my couch, Halloween is just the best. It's my Christmas.  This year, I am taking the entire week around Halloween off work. I'm serious about my passion, people.

Yours truly at the NOTLD cemetery.
13) Cemeteries:  I have lived my whole life adoring graveyards.  I can't explain it.  I love to wander around in the quiet resting place, checking out all the old stones in our local cemetery.  Some date back to pre-Civil War times.  I had my first kiss in a cemetery, drank my first beer in a cemetery, had make-out sessions with my future husband in a cemetery, and nearly everyone important that I've lost lies in that same cemetery. They are spooky yet calming.  A wonderful combination.

14) The Twilight Zone: Between Burgess Meredith breaking his glasses and William Shatner wigging out about something on the wing of the plane, The TZ is near and dear to my heart.  I still love watching day and night-long marathons - it just never. gets. old.  Am I right?

15) Profondo Rosso (Deep Red): My first taste of Dario Argento.  Simply due to the VHS cover. I was young - had already seen Fulci and was looking for more Italian horror.  Wow, what a shocker to experience the visually striking world of Argento (in surprising contrast to Fulci's gore-fests).  I quickly moved on to the rest of his catalogue.  Why hello, Suspiria!  How's it going, Tenebrae?

16) The Amityville Horror: The book.  It wasn't so much the whole ghost/demon/haunting story that got me, it was the fact that Ronald DeFeo killed his entire effing family in the dead of night and not one of them woke up when they heard that first shot.  That is so disturbing, and stuck with me long after I read the book that was supposedly a "true haunting" and saw the movie that "inspired" it.

17) Abandoned houses:  When I was a teenager, several of my friends and I had our own little 'ghost hunters' group before it was fashionable and current and making tons of money on reality television.  We'd find and explore old abandoned houses - the further out in the country or off the beaten path the better.  Many a time did we scare ourselves senseless, hearing or even seeing strange things.  A few times, it really was unexplained, and those are the memories I still come back to and shudder.

18) Disney's Haunted House albums:  You know the ones.  The ones that have eerie sound effects certain to send you screaming in fear. I loved them as a kid, and my grandfather fed my passion and bought me as many as he could find.  One of these records held Poe's short story The Tell-Tale Heart. I still have a special place for it in my own.

19) 1981: The Year.  So many films came out in this particular year: An American Werewolf in London, The Burning, Dead and Buried, Evil Dead, Escape from New York, The Entity, The Funhouse, Friday the 13th Part 2, Ghost Story, Halloween II, Hell Night, My Bloody Valentine, Ms.45, Nighthawks, Omen III, Scanners....well, you get the picture.

20) Jane Eyre:  By Charlotte Bronte.  The classic gothic romance that influenced me as a teenager like nobody's business.  I read a lot of classics - including Austen, Dickens, Wilde, etc.-  and Bronte's Jane Eyre affected me the most.  Such a moody, melancholy piece of work.  Perfect in every way.

21) Lake Mungo:  This little 2008 indie flick restored my faith that movies can still be unnerving and scary yet again.  While The Strangers (another well done 2008 film) was a giant step in the right direction for me, Lake Mungo was a massive jump. There is just something SO unsettling about that film.  I can't recommend it enough.

22) Dick Francis & Agatha Christie:  A tie!  As a younger teen, I discovered one of the most famous mystery writers of all time -Agatha Christie- and set a goal to read all her works.  While that didn't quite happen (yet), I did read a great number of her classic mysteries. As a young twenty-something, I found out that there was an author out there writing mysteries that were based around the world of horse racing.  Well holy shit!  As an avid - no, obsessive - horse racing fan, I was in love with Dick Francis. And though both these grand masters are gone, their work remains for all to enjoy. And I do!

Stay tuned for Part Two.....

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Tall Man (2012): (And No, Not The One From Phantasm!)

Review by Marie Robinson

Greetings, grim readers! Today I review for you a brand spankin’ new movie called The Tall Man. As you all know, it is directed by Pascal Laugier, famous for Martyrs and House of Voices. I am a jerk and haven’t seen either of these (don’t hurt me, Christine), but I have seen his newest contribution to the genre!

The movie is set in a small, impoverished town called Cold Rock, Washington; a town that holds a local legend close to its broken heart. Folk whisper of a stranger called the Tall Man. Few have seen him—a towering, shrouded figure—but all have felt his sinister touch. The Tall Man is notorious for stealing Cold Rock’s children.

Jessica Biel stars as Julia Dunning, a woman who has been acting as the town nurse since the death of the local doctor—her husband. The townspeople view her kindly, and she is particularly helpful to the mother of a broken family and her daughter, Jenny, played by Jodelle Ferland; a young lady who has already established an impressive horror resume with roles in movies such as Silent Hill, Cabin in the Woods, and Tideland (not horror, I know, but I had to give a shout-out to one of my favorite directors, Terry Gilliam!). Julia provides some much needed talk therapy to Jenny, who refuses to speak and communicates by writing on the pages of journals. Jenny claims to be one of the few who have seen the Tall Man.

Julia lives with a little boy named David (ADORABLE child actor Jakob Davies, who is getting a good start on his horror career having been featured in an episode of R.L. Stines’s The Haunting Hour and Supernatural) and a young woman named Christine (Eve Harlow). We assume these to be her children, but it is never really confirmed—whatever they are, they mean a lot to her and, naturally, she loses her shit when she comes home to find Christine bloody and gagged and David missing. She darts out of the house in pursuit of the alleged Tall Man, and it doesn’t take long for this film to get scary and strange.

The Tall Man does an excellent job of creating tone; both the cinematography and the score are strong and dramatic. You get a real feel for this somber fictional town, and the actors who define the various characters that fill it.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this film—again, I’ve never seen another Pascal Laugier, and to be honest, I was kind of expecting it to be bad after seeing Jessica Biel’s face on the cover. She may not have wowed me before but she did a fine job with the complex character she was given in The Tall Man.

Even if I did have the slightest inkling on what was going to happen next while watching this movie, that was all instantly dashed. As opposed to the big shocking twist coming at the end, it happens thirty minutes into the film. Oh, but they’re not done with you there, from that point on, your jaw just keeps on dropping. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but this film will take you by surprise. You may not be satisfied by the ending (I’m not really sure how I felt at the end of it all) but you can’t help but give it a brief applause for being surprisingly fresh and original.

The Tall Man will receive a limited theatre release on August 31st and hit video stores September 25th.