Saturday, June 28, 2008

Razor blade or chainsaw?

Must mention something I saw on MSN the other day.

There was an article about this game that you can play, free of charge, on the internet.
It's nasty. And controversial.
It makes you feel sick when you play it but you will have to try it because curiousity will just get to you until you do.

It's called The Torture Game.
The link I have here is the second edition (Torture Game 2)...

There are no real rules, you just click play and there is this dude, hanging there - and you have various implements of torture (chainsaw, razor, gun, etc) and you.... torture the dude. Seriously.
I can't decide whether it is truly messed up or good for anxiety. Probably both.

But it's a hot topic and I'm sure all the psychologists out there are saying that if you get any kind of enjoyment out of it then you should probably have your head examined. Yeah, whatever.

But it kinda makes you feel like you're in the middle of a Saw movie or something..

You'll try it too, I know you will.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thanks for the ride, lady!

Sometimes I like a good anthology movie.
This isn't one of them.
No, just kidding! I happen to like Creepshow 2 even better than the first one.
(Though that "Crate" story in the original one is by far the best - I love love love the scene where Hal Holbrook fake-shoots his trampy, loud-mouthed, drunk of a wife Adrienne Barbeau right between the eyes. Classic!)

Anyhoo -
Creepshow 2 is a real campy treat. Instead of the five tales of the macabre that we got in part one, we get three longer, tighter stories here.

The first, 'Old Chief Woodenhead' stars a couple of old school Hollywood stars - George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour. The old fogies own a general store in a desolate, run-down, one horse town somewhere in the southwest. They have been supporting the townsfolk (mostly American Indians) by letting them buy on credit, and one day one of the higher-ups brings a bag of precious stones and jewels for the elderly couple to hold as a lein on their debts.
That night the couple is robbed and unfortunately killed by some local youths who proceed to steal the valuable gems as well. The wooden Indian statue out at the storefront (Old Chief Woodenhead) then tracks them down to exact some revenge for his good-hearted, well-meaning owners. It is the most inferior tale of the three but still worth a look.

The second tale 'The Raft' - appears in Stephen King's book Skeleton Crew, but differs somewhat. The bones of the story are still there though. Simply put, two couples go to a lake to hang out (get high, get laid) on a wooden raft that has apparently been there for this reason for some time. It is a deserted area and when they swim out to the raft, one of them notices a duck being sucked down into the water by what looks like an oil slick. It's all downhill from there, kiddies. The special effects here leave a bit to be desired, but it's passable and still effective.

The third story - by far my favorite - is 'The Hitchhiker'...
A wealthy woman is getting ready to leave a hotel room after a romp with her regular gigolo. She is running late, talking to herself the whole way home - devising excuses to tell her husband regarding her tardiness. She drops a cigarette, fumbles trying to find it, slides all over the exit ramp, and smacks her car right into a black hitchhiker in a yellow slicker. She freaks out and, after hearing a truck coming, drives off leaving the man for dead. Being that this IS a horror movie, you just know damn well that dude ain't dead.
Special notice should be given to the truck driver in this scene - it's Stephen King himself, making a Hitchcock-like cameo. Funny!

Another cameo (though you cannot tell it is him) is Tom Savini starring as 'The Creep'.

There's no rocket science to this script, and it wouldn't win any prizes for quality content, but it is a true guilty pleasure that I'm happy to own.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The AFI pisses me off.

Recently, AFI ( aired a tv show called "10 Top 10", in which they chose ten genres and picked what they thought (?) were the best ten films within that genre.

Besides the serious disagreements I had with the films and/or their order of placement on said lists- (Chaplin's 'City Lights' as best romantic comedy? Ugh.... '2001' as best Sci-Fi flick? Kubrick hard-on alert!... 'Raging Bull' over 'Rocky' for best sports film? And no 'Seabiscuit'? OY! ) - they did not include the HORROR genre. This just flat out pissed me off. The fact that "Courtroom Dramas" made the list just amazed me - and perhaps they thought including separate categories for sci-fi and mystery would pacify all us horror-hounds.
I think not.
I mean, how about Psycho? Silence of the Lambs? Dracula? Halloween? Hell, what about JAWS for pete's sake? These are all major milestones in movie cinema. They really missed the mark here.

(To be fair, they also didn't include action, adventure, musicals, martial arts, documentary, romance, foreign, straight-out dramas, childrens.... wondering if there might be a part 2 coming along? Including the horror genre, that makes ten more...)

I didn't want to mess with what the ten most influential horror movies might be - that's a rough list to conjure. Too many great movies.
So I thought I would take a stab (no pun intended) at listing the ten horror movies that most made a lasting impression on me throughout my life. I've got nearly 40 years of memories... well, make that 28 years... don't think I watched many before the age of 12)

So, here goes. In my personal viewing order (not order of release) as best I can remember....

10) Friday the 13th - Ahh... my first horror movie and was it a doozy. I was 12. The folks went out for the evening and I was home alone for one of the first times at night. Showtime was having some kind of horror-fest and guess what was on? Yepper. I don't think I slept for a week. But I was exhillerated and psyched for more. It was only the beginning. For Kevin Bacon, too.

9) When a Stranger Calls - Who thought up this movie? Holy crap. When you're like, 13 and just starting to babysit - then you see this movie? The first half hour of this could not be scarier or make a bigger impression on a young girl. "Have you checked the children?".... maybe that is why I never wanted kids?

8) A Nightmare on Elm Street - Freddy when he still scared the pants off of people instead of making them pee their pants with laughter. I think I saw this at a slumber party or something.
All I know is when Freddy was in that dank wet alley and he had those creepy long arms and made that squeaky sound with his finger-knives.. whoa.
And I gotta give Freddy props for killing the beautiful Johnny Depp in such a bloody fine fashion. It was my 'first time' with Johnny.... and my most recent was Sweeney Todd.
We've come full circle, honey.

7) JAWS - This is actually in my top three favorite movies (the other two being #1 Sideways and #3 Forrest Gump) with good reason. It is a fantastic movie. Who hasn't heard the famous line about the bigger boat, or how Jaws is to a beach vacation as Psycho is to taking a shower. You just don't wanna.
To this day, I cannot be near the ocean's edge without thinking of Brody leaning over the edge of the boat and throwing the chum in the water and old Brucey suddenly surfacing, mouth open - nothing but teeth. Farewell and adieu, to you fair spanish ladies.....

6) Halloween - Michael Myers rocks my world. He's my favorite horror movie villian and I do believe, given the chance, he would kick Jason and Freddy's sorry asses. I have watched every incantation of Mikey in all his many sequels, including Rob Zombie's most recent, but of course this one holds up the best, with good reason. The scene where Laurie is in her bedroom and looks out the window and sees Michael standing in amongst the laundry on the line... then he's gone.... It is so much more effective than any other piece of dreck movie that has come along since.

5) Psycho 2 - I love the original Psycho, it's one of my favorites. So when this came out I had to see it, and did so at the drive in with a few friends. I was wondering what Norman had been up to for the last 22 years. A well-done sequel, in my opinion. Nothing really special about it, but Perkins is just so effective in the role, and the score by Jerry Goldsmith is one of my favorites.
Pre-retirement Meg Tilly does well as the niece of original victim Marion (Janet Leigh) Crane.
You have to wonder, during the course of watching this movie - is Norman up to his old tricks again?

4) Hellraiser - Clive Barker is a nutjob. What on earth made him think this shit up? Thank goodness he did, cause the world would be so much more boring without his inventive take on the sadomasochistic bloodbath that is this movie. Seriously - it is a deranged look at pain with pleasure and all things in between. He created an icon in Pinhead, who was actually not even supposed to be a main character. With a storyline more demented than Charles Manson, this is one not to be missed. I can still close my eyes and see that dude being ripped apart with chains and hooks. Even 'Saw' doesn't have that visceral of an effect.

3) The Blair Witch Project - After seeing this movie, I couldn't go to my basement to let my dog outside. Seriously. And I have no idea why. The shaky, motion-sickness inducing camera shots can be misleading and distracting for some, but once you put that aside - this film will get to you. You start believing - though you know for a FACT it is totally fiction - that there just might be something out there in those woods. I have never looked at our camp in the northern woods quite the same after seeing this. Matter of fact I'm not sure I've even went into those woods since this film...
The very last scene of the movie, for most everyone I have talked to, is so disturbing. It really is the icing on the cake. Love it or hate it, it makes an impression.

2) Dawn of the Dead (2004) - What a fantastic re-make. I love it. I could watch it again and again. What the director did with this Romero staple is upgrade it to today's standards. I simply love what they did with this. The cast is outstanding, the music is perfect, the vamped up storyline rocked, and the zombies are upgraded and apparently on acid. No more lumbering around aimlessly with arms outstretched... these dudes are flying at you at maximum speed.
Favorite part? The dancing to Richard Cheese's version of Disturbed's 'Down with the Sickness'.

1) Shaun of the Dead - Wow, I love this movie. Absolutely meant to be a comedy, it has so many great elements in it, as well as some full-on gore. Sharp, ingenious, and totally witty with a vengence, it is a bloody good time to say the least.
Shaun is just trying to save his friends and family from becoming the living dead. I bought this on a whim, before even renting it - one of the very few times I have ever done that - and it worked out for me. I can quote lines until the cows come home.

"Ed: Any zombies out there?
Shaun: Don't say that!
Ed: What?
Shaun: That!
Ed: What?
Shaun: The zed-word. Don't say it!
Ed: Why not?
Shaun: Because it's ridiculous!
Ed: Alright... are there any out there though?
Shaun: [looking out the door mail slot, he sees an empty street] I don't see any. Maybe it's not as bad as all that.
Shaun: [turns his head and sees a pack of zombies] Oh, no, wait, there they are.

So anyway, those are my ten. Not the ten best of all time by any stretch, and not my ten favorites... just ten movies that I will never forget. They have all been influential and made me the messed up individual I am today.


Monday, June 16, 2008

R.I.P. Stan Winston

The bad news: Stan Winston, special effects guru (age 62), died yesterday at his home in California after a years-long battle with multiple myeloma.

The good news: What a legacy of fantastic work he leaves for us to continue to marvel at.
Besides his FOUR Academy Awards for his work on Terminator 2, Jurassic Park and Aliens, as well as his countless other nominations, his prolific body of work includes some of the following genre flicks:


Edward Scissorhands


Interview with the Vampire

Lake Placid

Alien (all)

The Thing

Jurassic Park (all)

Friday the 13th, part 3

Terminator (all)

Pumpkinhead (which he directs and it is a personal fave of mine)

Wrong Turn (also directs)

and Iron Man...

Of course that is only a smattering of his work in the horror genre. He was famous for many other films, mainstream included - such as Batman Returns, AI, Pearl Harbor, Big Fish, etc...

He was in the midst of several projects (Terminator 4, Jurassic Park IV to name a few) at the time of his death. The projected outcome for that work is unknown at this time, but I am willing to bet his work at the Stan Winston Studios will continue under his good name.

Not so funny.

Funny Games is a chilling, grim, and thoroughly disturbing film. Austrian director Michael Haneke delivers a shot-for-shot remake of his own 1997 film of the same name, adding different actors for a US release.

The movie starts out innocently enough. Ann (Naomi Watts), George (Tim Roth) and their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart) are off to their weekend home in a very wealthy gated lakefront community.

Almost as soon as they arrive, their neighbor stops by with a 'friend', Paul (Michael Pitt, who is astonishingly good here), to help the two Georges get their sailboat ready. They make loose plans to get together. At the same time, another young guy - Peter (Brady Corbet) - is seen in the family kitchen asking Ann to borrow some eggs for the neighbors.

Pretty much immediately, I felt pretty strange and uncomfortable about this duo. Something just wasn't clicking.

On the way out the kitchen door, Peter drops the eggs and then proceeds to ask for more. Then he 'accidentally' brushes Ann's cell phone off the counter and into a sinkfull of dishwater, rendering it useless. Obviously a scam or set-up of some kind is underway.

Paul then shows up, admires George's nearby golf clubs, and asks to borrow one to try it out. Ann, already feeling uneasy-but doesn't want to appear unfriendly-concedes. Soon, the family dog is no longer heard barking outdoors.

When Paul returns, the two Georges are now there and the situation progresses to become the weirdest and most sadistic home invasion you've ever seen.

Peter ends up smashing George Sr.'s leg with a golf club and it all goes downhill from there.
Peter and Paul - dressed all in white, down to white cotton gloves on their hands, just want to play some games with the family. Some funny games.

Only nothing they play seems very funny to me. And there are multiple clues that lead you to believe that this is not the first time or the first family they've been 'playing' with.... And no doubt won't be the last.

All the lead actors give compelling performances, in particular Watts - who endures alot of embarressment and heartache at the hands of these two prep-school wackos.

There are even a few scenes where the lead nutjob (Pitt) actually 'breaks the fourth wall' - meaning he looks directly into the camera as if talking to us - the audience - chiding us for rooting for the victims to have a happy ending. Those scenes alone are truly unsettling. He really delivers an outstanding performance.

I'm not altogether sure what the whole point of the film was - perhaps it is just a study in suburban violence against unsuspecting folks who were minding their own business but just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don't know. But I was on the edge of my seat as the tension levels increased throughout the course of the movie. It was downright creepy.

I liked it - in a sick, dememted, rather disturbing way.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Hope your Father's Day is a bloody good one!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

No one can hear you scream..

'Alien' is just one of those feel-good movies you can't help but love.
The warmth and happiness you get just from sliding this dvd into the player just resonates joy for me, and....
wait a tic...
Alien? Oh yeah - that's right, it scares the pants right the hell off of me!

Over at the always fantastic horroretc podcast (, last weeks episode was about the Alien franchise.
Coincidentally, I had just - no kidding - bought this dvd at Wally-World a week or so before that, and so just having watched the original, I was able to really enjoy all the banter about it that went on for nearly two hours. (Great job, guys!)

Alien is an incredibly claustrophobic nightmare. You can only imagine how a group of people stuck on a ship in outer space would feel with a - for lack of a better term - alien, on board. This is, in my humble opinion, the greatest sci-fi movie put to celluloid. (sorry all you Star Wars and Trekkie fans...) It is so simple in idea, yet so frightening. Ridley Scott directed the original - see, he did make good movies before Gladiator! The cast is equally up to the task, and you'll recognise most of them - Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm (Bilbo anyone?), Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton... etc. Early roles for many of them, but they were already hitting their mark here.

Isn't it a handsome little devil??
This is my favorite part - the infamous "chest-bursting" scene. You've no doubt seen a clip of this somewhere, at some point in your life - especially if you are reading this blog. It is utterly surprising, horrific, disgusting and downright gruesome! Love it.
If 'Alien' teaches us anything, it is not to go poking around in strange places on strang(er) planets. Duh.

So if you haven't seen at least the first one in the series (the first is the best, as usual) - you should either run right out and buy it, or add it to your Netflix queue for an absolutely terrifying trip to the unknown.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Happy Friday the 13th!!!

Hope the significance of the day doesn't hit you over the head!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Update on Fear Itself

Ok, so I've now watched the first two episodes of the new horror anthology series on NBC- "Fear Itself", and I have a few thoughts.

First of all, I kind of enjoyed the first one, entitiled 'Sacrifice'. It was the story of a small group of criminals who hoard up in an abandoned fort in the wintertime. Soon they run into three young women, sisters I believe, who live like old time pioneer folks, and for some reason Dad's chained to the bed. The sisters have some secrets, and being about only 40 minutes long (commercials!), they don't waste much time figuring things out. I'd like to say it was a tight little tale, but it had more than a few holes in the set-up and was only somewhat scary. It had a bit of atmosphere and a claustrophobic feel, but all in all - just mediocre.

The second episode - 'Spooked' was directed by the guy (Brad Anderson) that did 'The Machinist', which I very much enjoyed, but this hour - for me - was totally inferior. I didn't find it even remotely scary - and the storyline was actually just boring. I almost nodded off a few times (but that could be the late 10pm showtime). Eric Roberts starred, and he almost always brings a sleasy, skum-bag kind of feel to things, and this was no different. He stars as a disgraced cop who has made some fairly bad decisions in his career, was forced off the police squad, and in turn, is a private detective of sorts. He is hired to get evidence on an unfaithful husband by staking out the house from the abandoned (say, haunted) home across the street. Basically, I think the idea was that his past was coming back to haunt him...literally.
The plot, to me, was just a mess here, and I couldn't find many redeeming qualities. So let's leave it at that and hope for better next week.

So far I am not impressed and don't think it even holds a small candle to the 'Masters of Horror' series on Showtime that it is patterned after. And it is not because they aren't able to swear profusely, have nudity, or excessive gore. It is a problem with the writing, in my humble opinion. Let's just hope they have saved the better eps for later on. I will keep watching, if only because there isn't a damn thing on tv this summer - unless you like extra shitty reality shows.

I guess you should check it out for yourself, though. I never believe what the critics (or anyone else) say until I see something for myself.
Till next time...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Abandoned

The Abandoned is a 2006 movie that stars people you probably won't recongnize (Anastasia Hille, Carlos Reig, Valentin Ganev, and Karel Roden). It was one of the 2006 After Dark Horror Fest movies. And from what I have heard, the spookiest of the lot.

It tells the story of 40-ish Marie, an American who has been asked to come back to Russia to inherit her family farm deep in the Russian woods. She was a baby when adopted and moved to America, and has never known her true parents or any other family. She agrees to go and proceeds to make the trip, sees the notary regarding the property, and then pays someone to take her to the location - where apparently no one else wants to go after dark. Not a good sign in my book.

This part of the film generates a whole shitload of atmosphere as you just feel flat-out frightened for her while she is traveling to the home with a Russian dude she doesn't even know. The woods are deep and thick, with dark skies, endless masses of pines, and a singular dirt road in to the place. In fact, she is told the home sits on an 'island' of sorts, and they have to cross a bridge over a river to reach it, making it all the more inaccessible. You have this creepy feeling that someone or something could jump out at any time.

Thankfully, that does not really happen, but her driver stops just prior to reaching the house and states he will go on ahead and make sure there are no 'animals' around. (huh? is she supposed to be more afraid of a raccoon than this burly, intimidating Russian?) He does not return, so she forages out looking for him. Not locating him, she stumbles across a dilapatated house - the Kardinovsky farm, which is what she was searching for. Her family estate. She enters, and it is possibly the most run-down, decaying old piece of crap house you've ever seen. The house in The Blair Witch Project... similar but this might just be creepier, at least inside.

Of course nearly immediately she hears noises upstairs and runs upstairs to see what it was. (As if any sane human being would do this) She finds nothing. When in the room she notices someone walking by out of the corner of her eye. She chases after her and upon catching up notices it is her 'doppleganger' - someone who looks exactly like her, except that this person is dead... with pasty white skin, transparent eyes, and dripping wet. She screams and runs outside, and in turn sees her driver speeding away, leaving her stranded there. She chases after him but somehow (?) runs right into the river and falls in.

When she wakes up there is a man sitting at a table in the room she is in, lights aglow. He is searching through her wallet and she calls him on it. His name is Nikolai and he explains he thinks he is her brother. He produces the same picture of a Russian woman that Marie has and states the same notary called him. He says they are twins. He shows her the nursery upstairs with two cribs. She tells him about the lifeless woman she saw and he clarifies that when you see your doppleganger, it is a warning of imminent death.

Soon after, Nikolai's own apparition appears. They try to run from the ghosts and somehow (?) Nikolai falls through a hole in the floor. (Say what?) Marie runs to find something to help him get out but when she returns the hole is no longer there, and neither is Nikolai.

Right around this point in the film things start to unwind, logically. Marie heads back upstairs (why would you do this?) and witnesses an event from the past that helps her to understand exactly what happened in this house, to her parents, and the reason for the 'hauntings'...

I can't give away any more, but even if I did you may still be hard pressed to understand. But I was creeped out by this movie enough to purchase it. It has a sinister overtone, and much can be said of the effects and unnerving ambience of the whole thing. It's so dark and ghoulish.
The house alone, is dread-inducing. There was a bit of obligatory gore in there too, to make everyone happy.
Anyway, I have to say I liked it alot, even with the plot holes and semi-non-sensical ending. So I say give it a look-see.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Shout Out....

Couldn't pass up the opportunity to say GOOD LUCK to Big Brown in his quest to be the 12th Triple Crown winner today at the Belmont Stakes in NY.

It has been a 30 year drought since a horse has won (Affirmed 1978) so I am itching (as are all racing fans) for a victory!

Safe rides to all, and hopefully a little history will be made today.
Fingers Crossed :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

On a rainy weekend...

I've just seen a whole slew of horror movies over the last several days (it's what happens when it rains here...) so I thought I'd put up some reviews/suggestions. Most of these I have seen before but perhaps not everyone has, so here goes:

First up: Fingerprints (2006)

Now with a DVD cover like this one, you'd think this would be killer scary, right?
Well..... it didn't suck. But it wasn't especially scary. Rather like a mystery - or maybe slightly better than a saturday night Sci-Fi Channel premiere.
There were a few spooky elements though, and perhaps I am desensitized and not much creeps me out anymore.

"Fingerprints" is actually based on an supposed urban legend out of Texas about a school bus accident in which a train hits a stalled bus on the tracks and all the children inside die. Nice premise, eh?
Story goes that if you stop your car at the tracks and put it in neutral, the ghosts of the children will push your car across the tracks and out of harm's way. If you are a savvy ghost hunter, you will sprinkle baby powder on your bumper and soon after, discover the fingerprints of the kids. Cool!

I liked the main character, Melanie, played by Leah Pipes (whom I had never heard of until now but apparently she has done some Disney tv or the likes). She was completely believable and a good actress. Mel has just gotten out of rehab (which was some kind of 'outward bound' thing for troubled teens - we should all be so lucky) and has come home to live with her small-town, recently relocated parents. (They never say - did she cause such a drug-induced ruckus that the folks had to leave town?)
Actually, her boyfriend and her were doing drugs and he overdosed and died and she died and came back. So she has some kind of "special feelings" or kinship with the ghostly realm.

Also in the family is Mel's big sister, who in my book looked the same age and nothing like Melanie at all. Crystal (Kristin Cavallari of 'The Hills' fame) plays sis, and she is as wooden an actress as I have seen in quite some time. She just looks pretty... that's about all she can manage.
The mom is a royal unforgiving, untrusting bitch (and fairly bad actress as well) and Dad is a secret sympathizer. There's the family in a nutshell.

Melanie attends the same school as her sister, quickly makes a new boyfriend (Josh Henderson of Desperate Housewives), gets on a first-name basis with the guidance counselor (genre favorite Lou Diamond Phillips) and begins doing her own research about the legend after her sister shows her the famous 'fingerprints on the bumper' trick and Mel sees a ghostly girl.

To say more would give the whole thing away, so I'll just end it there by saying this was a pretty good mystery, and there were a few choice gore moments for us true grue fans.

Moving on to one of my all time new favorites: the fantastic, unrivaled 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead.

I could watch this movie again and again. I love it. There is only one other remake even remotely on-par with this movie and that would be the 1982 remake of the 50's horror standard "The Thing". It rocks and if you haven't seen it, don't be afraid to, as it has held up quite well after all these years.
Anyway, Dawn of the Dead is a remake of the 1978 George Romero classic. It was the second of Romero's zombie movies and while good in its own right, I truly believe the updated version is the way to go.

Ana (the always brilliant Sarah Polley) finishes an overtime shift at her job as a hospital nurse and joins her hubby for a quiet evening at home.

Morning comes and so does the little neighbor girl at their bedroom door. When hubby gets up to check on her, she pounces on him like a cheetah to an antelope and proceeds to rip out his throat. Ana cannot get the bleeding stops and Louis expires. But as any zombie fan worth their merit knows, he's not gone for long...
He reanimates and chases her from the house where she escapes in her car, barrelling down the neighborhood while noticing things are exploding in chaos all over. To make a long story short, she wrecks her car, finds a friend in a police officer (Ving Rhames), finds three more 'normal' folks: Michael (Jake Weber), Andre (Mekhi Phifer), and his russian girlfriend Luda (Inna Korobkina)..
They make their way to a local mall ( in the original the mall they shot the film at is nearby where I live) and eventually increase their party of 5 to a party of 15 or so.

From here on out it is basically a battling zombies kind of film. But the effects are great, the acting top-notch and the plot just works. There is comedic intervention as well as some truly awesome gore. I can't say enough good things about it.

In most films, zombies generally poke along at a ridiculously slow pace, obviously due to their brain matter being a tad nonexistent I suppose, but this film continued a trend of perilously fast, practically running zombies. That's pretty much scarier than a zombie strolling along at a turtle's pace.
For other awesome quick-paced zombie movies, check out '28 Days Later' and its really good sequel, '28 Weeks Later' - though I think they are supposed to be people infected with a rage of some sort, not actual zombies. Plays out the same though.

Watch for special effects guru Tom Savini, who did much of Romero's movies special effects and make-up, in a funny cameo.

All in all, a fine zombie movie that comes highly recommended.

Lastly for today, a two-fer. Psycho and Psycho 2.

There is not much one can say about the original 1960 thriller, Psycho, except that it is one of the finest films ever put to celluloid.
Could there be a more iconic horror movie scene than the image of "Mother" pulling open that shower curtain and weilding that knife while Bernard Herrmann's all too familiar strains of screeching string instruments? I think not.

Alfred Hitchcock always knew how to give a person a fright, but I believe that this was his true masterpiece. Others will say Vertigo, or Rear Window (both good) but this is a movie that everyone knows. Everyone has seen it. Everyone is afraid of showering now.
What Jaws was to the ocean, 'Mother' is to taking a shower.

Poor Norman (Anthony Perkins) cannot get a date to save his life with his mother always yelling at him and chiding him. When the beautiful Marion Crane (who has just embezzled a shitload of money from her boss and is on the lam) stops for the night at the Bates Motel, events are set in motion that are unstoppable. She meets Norman while checking in and he hesitates, then gives her Room #1.
Quick synopsis: They chat. She leaves. She showers. He watches. She dies. He cleans up. He blames Mother. Her family arrives. Detective as well. They investigate. More murder.
Shocking revelation. The End.

Psycho was well received by critics and audiences alike, who could not believe Hitchcock would kill off a big Hollywood star like Janet Leigh in the first 20 minutes of the film! And poor Anthony Perkins, himself an Oscar nominated actor, found himself pigeon-holed into the role of Norman Bates forever.

Though I have heard they colorized the film for a dvd release at some point, I definately do not recommend seeing it in anything but its native black and white. The effect is so much greater.

PSYCHO 2 (1983) is a personal favorite of mine, not only because I love the Norman Bates character (who was based on the lovely serial killer Ed Gein), but because I love the score by the prolific late Jerry Goldsmith.

In it, we find Norman, finally being released from jail after serving 22 years for... whoops! Did I forget to previously mention he was the killer in the first movie? Ha. You knew that.
Looking pretty sane and fairly confident, he decides (against the better judgement of his psychiatrist, played by Robert Loggia) to move back to the old house on the hill and run that infamous motel again. After all, what else could he do? Much to the chagrin of his biggest protester, Marion Crane's sister, Lila - who protests at the courthouse and swears he'll kill again.

His shrink has arranged for him to work at a local diner (you know, with knives and stuff!) and so once there he meets his tempermental boss, and his co-workers - one bitchy waitress, one clumsy but nice-enough waitress - Mary, and Mrs. Spool, who convinced the state to give Norman the job because it is the Christian thing to do.

He also has a run-in with the current manager of the Bates Motel, the low-life Mr Toomey, who has turned it into a one stop shop for quick sex and drugs. He fires Toomey straight out and has a confrontation at the restaurant because he thinks Toomey slipped a note from his dead mother onto the order rack.
After that grueling first day, he invites a weary and recently broken-hearted Mary to stay at his motel since her boyfriend kicked her out. She agrees, but ends up staying in the house because Toomey has basically trashed the motel rooms.

Soon Norman begins to receive mysterious phone calls from his 'mother' and hears voices. His mother's room turns out to have not aged a day and looks exactly as it did 22 years ago. He gets stuck in the attic, finds bloody towels in the toilet, and once a murder occurs in the house when he is supposed to be at work, he feels he is starting to lose control again. Is he descending into madness again?

Check out the movie to find out. It's a great return to a horror franchise. They made a few sequels after this one, with Perkins continuing the role, but this one is far superior to either of those.

Ok, that's all for now, folks.
Much more to come. Wait for it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Walk in the Woods...

'Wrong Turn' plus 'The Hills Have Eyes' minus 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' divided by 'Friday the 13th' = Timber Falls.

You've seen this all before. But there is a slight twist.

Timber Falls is one of those movies where you find yourself saying - several times - what the hell?? Stupid decisions are made several times in various situations in which I just KNOW I would be smarter. Don't these characters ever actually watch a horror movie?

I wish I had a buck for every time I am watching a horror movie and I question the actions of the main characters. Over and over and over........

That being said, I actually didn't mind this film, it wasn't altogether bad.

Mike and Sheryl are a young couple who decide there aren't any good hiking spots in their native Virginia (Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway anyone?) so they head to the mountains of West Virginia to spend a romantic weekend camping off the trails. They are told at the ranger station to stick to the less vigorous paths because they are not that experienced. He tells them of two trails they can easily access to the summit and to camping locations. He reminds them to watch out for the local families scattered along the way. They won't bother you if you stay off their property and mind your own business.
(Here's where the stupidity begins, folks. Wouldn't you just stick to those trails? After the "locals" warning I might head back to Virginia right then) Mistake number 1.

When heading out from the ranger station they run into an apparent local- a woman who seems harmless enough, friendly even - who tells them the 'Timber Falls' trail is great - a beautiful waterfall and scenic vistas. Oh yes!, they blubber, that sounds great. It's like when someone decides to get off the main highway and take that old dusty beaten-down cowpath of a road leading through the woods instead. Seriously!
Anyway, mistake number 2.

On that path, they break out the camera when they spot some grazing deer, and this apparently makes them feel quite amorous, as they decide to have sex, right there in the flora & fauna.
Mistake number 3. Never had poison ivy? How about on your backside?

While in the throes of passion they are stumbled upon by three rednecks, toting shotguns and a whole lot of attitude. They do the obligatory hootin' & hollerin' about Sheryl's nakedness and then proceed to make Mike buy a quart of their homemade moonshine for fifty bucks. To get rid of them, he obliges and they all move on.
Sheryl then feels, for some reason unknown to sanity, that Mike shouldn't keep the gun that he has in his backpack. She begs him to get rid of it because she thinks he might fly off the handle and end up shooting someone. (Guess she never thought about the damn wild animals such as bears or cougars.... just crazy locals - for which he actually SHOULD keep the gun! Crazy bitch.) Anyhoo, Mike doesn't want to pitch the revolver, but he ditches the bullets. Mistake number 4.

They then run into a random ranger who tells them of a great clearing by a lake that they can spend the night. And they still are not in the least bit suspicious. Mistake number 5.

Things go ok that night (with more sex as well as a horrible campfire meal and some fighting about not being married yet) but in the a.m., Sheryl puts on her 'you've lost your freakin' mind' shoes and heads to the lake for a swim in the buff. Do I really need to say this is another mistake? Guess I'd lose count if I continued with that tally. I'm assuming Sheryl never saw Friday the 13th.

Needless to say, there is more in the woods than a few shady locals. Sheryl is then kidnapped by someone looking alot like Jason Voorhees without the mask. Mike awakens and cannot find Sheryl so while running around looking for her he not only impales his arm on a branch, he falls into a bear trap that messes up his leg.
But never fear, the happy local who told them about the trail in the first place appears. She takes him back to her place and from then on, it is like Wrong Turn on religious steriods. Seems Ida (local woman) and her hubby (the ranger encountered along the way) are looney religious freaks who are using young couples to try to conceive a child. Ida is barren, and from all the jars of fetuses in the basement, she's been trying for a long time.

Add to that mix Ida's brother - freaky disformed kidnapper Deacon Voorhees (kidding) - he's hot to trot for the female victims - and you have a truly messed up situation.

The couple's attempts to escape are what follows - after a impromtu wedding performed by Mr. Forest Ranger (can't have our couple consumating before marriage!)...

Mike and Sheryl do so many stupid things all through this movie, but at least at the end they do get it right.

There is a little jump scare final ending that is entirely ridiculous, implausable, and just begs for a sequel (please, noooooo!) but all in all, this little direct-to-dvd B movie will pass a few hours in a satisfactory manner. Just don't expect much and you'll be pleasantly surprised.