Sunday, March 29, 2009

This is not the Twilight crowd's vampires....

I finally got to see the much-hyped vampire movie: Let the Right One In.

Let me tell you, it's sooo worth the hype.

Let the Right One In stars Lina Leandersson as Eli, a mysterious young girl who moves into the apartment beside Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) and warns him on their first meeting that they cannot be friends.
Yeah, I guess that does sound a bit like Twilight at first, eh? (LOL)
But things are not what they seem.

This movie is based (quite faithfully I might add) on the novel by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, who thankfully adapted the screenplay as well. The starkness of a 1982 Swedish winter that director Tomas Alfredson brings to the screen is only part of the fantastic atmosphere that surrounds and envelopes this entire film.
And yes, people, it's a Swedish movie so there are subtitles. You can also set up the movie to be dubbed with American, but I prefer to watch people's mouths actually match what the words coming out say, so I use the subtitles with no problem at all.

Oskar, we learn right off, is being bullied at school and as a 12 year old with divorced parents, he is a fairly lost and forlorn pre-adolescent when he meets Eli at the small playground outside their apartment complex. As I said, she tells him they can't be friends, but they end up bonding over a Rubik's cube, which sets in motion a series of events. It is puppy love at its finest, yet there are reasons that Eli and Oskar should not be together.

Spoiler here (as if you hadn't heard): Eli has been 12 a very long time. She is a vampire.

Eli has a father figure, Hakan, that helps keep her deadly secret by procuring her meals.


It is never said how or if they are related, but it is obvious he is having more and more doubts about the nature of his duty. When Hakan meets his end, Eli is left alone to try to survive.

Eli and Oskar become close, and he eventually does come to figure out she is not like him.
(Took a bit of time though - guess the pale face smeared with blood finally gave it away.)

Then again, who'd think a 12 year old vampire was living next door?
But Oskar loves Eli despite this inconvienience.

Oskar enlists Eli's advice as far as dealing with his bullies, and being the natural predator she is, Oskar learns from her and starts to take matters into his own hands...

But when Eli's secret is threatened to be exposed, she decides she must leave.

I won't mention the end because it is the most powerful (and bloodiest) part of the film.
Suffice it to say, retribution comes just in time.

By the way, the title of the movie (and book of course) comes from the legend that explains that a vampire must be given permission to enter a house first. This is the first vampire movie I can remember that actually delves into that myth... and shows what happens if they are not actually invited in'...

So, in essence, you have to let the right one to speak.

All in all, this is a slow-moving, bleak film that speaks to the more discerning horror fan. I don't think I've been as impressed with filmmaking in quite some time.
The last few minutes of the movie: sublime.

Unfortunately, word on the street is that come 2010, an Americanized version of this movie will slosh its way into theaters thanks to the money hungry Michael Bay team of hacks. Ugh.

But we'll always have the original to look to for a real look at cinema done right.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I'd actually been waiting to see Quarantine (2008) for over a month now. It's been at the top of my Netflix queue but I kept getting everything except.

I've recently seen a few movies that use the same hand held cam effect - Diary of the Dead and Zombie Diaries. I did not care for either one of them at all. I did enjoy Cloverfield more than I thought I would, but if you put all three of them up against Quarantine, they would all fail miserably in my eyes. I'm not saying it's the next best horror movie, but I did enjoy it quite a bit.
Here is a movie that the hand held shaky cam thing actually worked and was believable, IMHO.

Quarantine is an American remake of the Spanish film [rec], which I have not seen but have heard very good things about.
It centers around a reporter, Angela (Jennifer Carpenter of The Exorcism of Emily Rose and also Dexter) who, with her camera man Scott (Steve Harris) has been assigned to follow the L.A. Fire Department for the evening shift. They meet two firefighters, Jake (Jay Hernandez of Hostel fame) and Fletcher (Johnathon Schaech) who they are assigned to shadow.
After some friendly banter between the guys and Angela, a call finally comes in and they are off to a scene.

They arrive at an apartment building where according to police on scene and the Russian super, one of the tenants - a woman - had been screaming like crazy but is now gone silent. They proceed to the apartment in question and find Mrs. Espinoza, gasping for breath, bleeding, and foaming at the mouth. They try reasoning with her (?) and she becomes violent, biting one of the officers in the neck (and I'm not talking Dracula here, I'm talking Dawn of the Dead).
Things go downhill from there. Way downhill.

The next thing you know, the CDC is outside and they completely barricade and close off the entire building, refusing to let anyone in - or out.
Victims start piling up and the veterinarian that lives there, after examining the bodies, comes to the conclusion that the bodies are showing all the symptoms of rabies. So if you get any body fluids (blood or otherwise) on you - or should I say in you - you're pretty much f***ed.
You can't just get shots and forget about it, rabies diagnosed after symptoms show is a death sentence.

The two firefighters, Jake and Fletcher try to gather all the tenants together on the lower floor, so they start searching apartments and have more run ins with zombie-type infectious freaks. Quite cool.
Fletcher falls from the top floor after being bitten, smacking his head off the floor. Not good. He doesn't die right away, so you can see where this is going. People are bitten left and right and so much screeching and shrieking from people who are either infected or on their way there.

Naturally, Angela and her camera guy are getting all of this on film, and it truly is almost like watching a documentary. A really intense, rather frightening, documentary.
Angela interviews some of the tenants, including a little girl who is apparently sick with what her mother calls 'bronchitis'. Through some further prodding, Angela finds out the little girl's dog was taken to the vet that day because he was sick.
When one of the CDC agents finally comes inside to take blood samples, it is learned that an animal clinic nearby was infected by rabies and the source dog apparently came from that very apartment complex.

The tension just keeps escalating throughout. When we are finally down to just three people, and then down to the two that you assume are going to be there at the end, the camera shakes more than ever and to be honest, I felt a bit queasy at that point.

Something that really, REALLY does bother me about Quarantine is that when the movie came out and the trailers were up on tv, the creepiest scene - the one with the girl (Carpenter) being pulled backward while she screams (also on the DVD cover) - I waited 88 minutes for than particular scene.
What I'm saying is: when you start watching this movie, you already know how it's going to end because you've seen the trailer.
Thankfully, it's fun to watch the 'getting there' parts in between...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thoughts on violence in contemporary horror

My thoughts on violence in contemporary horror:

First of all, just let me say I have a hard time finding faults in horror movies in general. I can usually find redeeming qualities in most horror films (but that list would not include Borderline Cult, or the Prom Night and April Fool's day remakes!). However, if pressed to choose between say, Halloween and Friday the 13th (both originals) I would no doubt pick Halloween.

I do not believe it is necessary to have alot of gore in a movie to make it scary. The element of suspense is much more important to me than watching someone get an arrow through the eye. When Laurie was looking out her window of her bedroom and saw Michael standing in amongst the sheets on the clothesline, and then he disappeared - much more frightening.

That being said, wanting honest chills from a movie does not interfere with my glee at watching movies such as "À l'intérieur" (aka "Inside") or "Frontier(s)" -both French gorefests. They, in particular "Inside", mixed the suspense with the gruesome blood & guts and still came out with a fairly good total product. I felt this was done rather well with "Haute Tension" as well. Funny how the French are running rings around us Americans in this category. I can only provide "The Strangers" as a recent example of how tension is done right here in the states (but even that was a remake of the French horror film "Ils" (Them).
Going back a bit, I would say the 1982 remake of "The Thing" is a prime example of a perfect mix.
Most recently, I think "Quarantine" is actually a pretty good film as well, if you can get past the shaky-cam.

So I don't think you need the graphic violence, per se. There have been a fair amount of horror movies that didn't have alot of gore but still managed to freak me out. Case in point: the classic Psycho, the aforementioned Halloween, Ghost Story, The Shining, The Ring, The Grudge - hell, even the Texas Chainsaw Massacre ('74) didn't have much blood to speak of.

But on a side note, you gotta give us something, anything: "The Happening" - WTF???

I have yet to see The Last House on the Left remake, but I sincerely doubt it could be as disturbing as the original. It was always known for its brutal violence and disturbing death scenes, but to be honest, even it pales in comparison to all the French movies I previously mentioned, along with flicks like Hostel, The entire Saw series, Dawn of the Dead ('04), The Descent, Halloween ('07), and one of my recent faves, Dog Soldiers. That scene of the dog pulling the dude's intestines out..yikes.

Movie critics today (and probably always will) find horror fans inexplicable. They just don't get why we run out to the latest horror movie on opening weekend. They simply do not understand we are looking for the next great horror flick. (Still looking.....)
Critics lump us into one small bunch of weirdos and complain that all the movies are doing is trying to find new ways to kill people. Indeed, a mish-mash of recent horror seems to prove that theory correct. Mundane, boring and useless sequels with amped up gore does not a good horror movie make.

And I'm not laughing, either.
Robert Ebert recently stated (in his review of the new Last House on the Left) : "Other scenes, while violent, fell within the range of contemporary horror films, which strive to invent new ways to kill people, so the horror fans in the audience will get a laugh."

I wouldn't exactly say that horror fans are looking to crack up during death scenes, though. I know I wasn't laughing when Michael Myers beat his sister's boyfriend over the head several times with a ball bat in the Rob Zombie remake. Not really that funny, actually.

But I know I have become more and more jaded and desensitized over the last 25+ years of watching horror. I do believe I've seen it all. I've seen people die in so many different ways that I sincerely doubt ANYTHING would surprise me. I mean, Hostel freaked me out, but more because it was the thought of something like that actually happening on vacation- not that someone got their achilles tendon cut. Been there, done that - Pet Sematary ('89) - and that was more disturbing cause it was a little kid doing the cutting.
Turistas did the same thing to me. I am not sure I will ever go to South America. It's the thought that it could happen, not the actual removing of the kidneys that got to me.
Even Eli Roth's first venture, "Cabin Fever", was scarier because you could actually get that disease (Necrotizing fasciitis).... but that scene where Cerina Vincent shaves her legs off... yeah, that was brutal.
But actually, I was more scared watching Daniel Craig get his privates whacked over and over in Casino Royale. Now THAT was frightening.

Today's movie makers need to realize that just plain old blood and guts doesn't win over the average horror fan. We are still a discriminating bunch, and though we will go see your latest gorefest of the week, we are still searching for that next 'Blair Witch Project", you know? And again... no blood in that one either.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pretend you care...

I stole this subject from Final Girl - she has it somewhere in her blog, I think like two years ago or something...

She titled it 'Pretend you care...', and I think that about sums it up.
My answers might not all be horror-related, but I'll try.
Here goes:

1) Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times:
Sticking to strictly the horror genre, I'd have to say Halloween, Friday the 13th, Psycho, The Shining.... so many more. I do have a soft spot in my heart for both Psycho 2 as well as Ghost Story and have seen each numerous times.

2) Name a movie that you've seen multiple times in the theater:
Whoa. Thinking here. I'm not much for multiple theater viewings (cost, baby, cost!)... Okay, does Twilight count? I saw it two times in one week. I did see Titanic twice "in house", that's scary, right?

3) Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie:
Johnny Depp. I would watch HIM watch paint dry for two hours. Or longer.

4) Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie:
David Spade, Tara Reid, Ben Stiller. I also hate and refuse to watch anything Chris Farley was ever in. What a loser. Sorry that he's dead and all, but he sucked. Belushi wannabe.

5) Name a movie that you can and do quote from:
Too many to list. I really rock at movie quotes. I've got a great memory and can pull them out of my ass like nobody's business.
As for horror, I'd have to say I've quoted 'The Shining' frequently. "Wendy, Darling...Light of my life....I'm not gonna hurt ya..."

6) Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs:
Gotta go with 'Grease' here. (Sorry, I'm not a Rocky Horror Picture Show fan)

7) Name a movie that you have been known to sing along to:
Again, Grease. Oh, and the Sound of Music. (so sue me!)
Ooo! Forgot Sweeney Todd. I know those songs.

8) Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see:
Random choice: Blair Witch Project

9) Name a movie that you own:
I'd have to just randomly pick something, I own a shitload of DVDs, people. And 75% of them are horror. Ok - here goes: Secret Window (part of my 'Johnny Depp is a god' collection...)

10) Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops:
Crap, I don't know. For some reason I can't think of a single soul at this moment... Wasn't Bon Jovi in that submarine movie awhile back? Was he any good?

11) Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?
I saw a double feature of 'Psycho 2' and 'Vamp' back in..oh I don't know, 1983 ?
In a similar vein: I always wanted to go to the drive in and watch a movie that shows people watching a movie at a drive in... (i.e. Twister, Grease, Christine) - is that weird??

12) Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven't yet gotten around to it.

13) Ever walked out of a movie?
Movies are way too expensive. Gotta get my money's worth even if it kills me. But I don't think I ever disliked something that bad...

14) Name a movie that made you cry in the theater:
Embarrassingly, Titanic. But come on, anyone who didn't cry when Kate let Leo's hands go and he sunk into the water just isn't human and I'll never believe they didn't cry anyway. Liars.

15) Popcorn?
Sometimes, depending on my mood. Sometimes I just like to get Snowcaps and throw them at the loud kids four rows down.

16) How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)? I'd have to say the percentage is like 97% home, 3% theater. I'm cheap and Netflix rocks.

17) What's the last movie you saw in the theater?
Friday the 13th (2009)

18) What's your favorite/preferred genre of movie?
Art-house independent films.
Naaahhh... you know me better than that - horror, hands down.

19) What's the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
Something Disney I think. Perhaps Snow White or maybe Dumbo. I don't recall exactly, I was like, 4. But you know, those Disney films are probably what set the wheels in motion for my love of horror. I mean, what the hell is scarier than witches giving you poison apples, your mom getting shot, or getting swallowed by a freakin' whale? Yeah, that Disney dude must have really liked kids....

20) What movie do you wish you had never seen?
Eyes Wide Shut (the sound you hear now is me screaming as I pull hair out of my head one by one at the mere mention of that crapfest. Thank GOD I didn't see it in the theater, or I'd have your answer for question #13)
I also DESPISED the movies 'Gummo' and 'Borderline Cult'. Those pieces of dreck are burned on my brain for all eternity.

21) What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?
Weirdest? Hmmm.... 'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me'.... that's some strange shit, there. David Lynch is so friggin' obscure. Guess you could add his Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway to that list.

22) What is the scariest movie you've seen?
Besides the obvious answer of 'The Exorcist', I have to add 'The Blair Witch Project'... and to be honest, the first time I saw the remake of 'The Grudge' it freaked me out. Seriously. I still think of that jaw-clicking sound every once in awhile. Chills.

23) What is the funniest movie you've seen?
Probably 'Christmas Vacation' - hot damn is that hysterical! For horror, I'd go with 'Young Frankenstein' - good stuff!

Friday, March 13, 2009


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hell is closer than you think.

Something to look forward to, perhaps?

Below is the trailer for the new Sam Raimi feature coming out this May.
Movie's called "Drag me to Hell" and it seems like it might not be too bad, eh?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

'Vampire' skull found in Italy

In case anyone hasn't seen this story yet:
"Alleged vampire skull found in Italy"

Another article on skull

Diary of a disaster

When will people stop making 'Blair Witch' type films? Have we not come to the end of that era yet? Can we rush it along?
This hand-held video stuff has got to stop at some point, right?

Am I the only person who is sick of amateur filmmakers thinking they can bite off a piece of the Blair Witch pie and run with it?
The latest entry (at least the latest I've seen, as I have yet to watch Quarantine - though it is in my Netflix queue...) is the god-awful Zombie Diaries.

Which is, in effect, George Romero's Diary of the Dead reworked (and not well) from a British point of view.
I didn't care for Romero's latest either, but I have to admit I liked it better than this 'why-did-they-even-make-it' time waster.

I know, I know... somebody out there is gonna disagree with me.
Someone will no doubt say it is a marvel of cinematic brilliance.
Well I'm here to tell you NFW!

So here we have a yet another zombie invasion (yawn) in Britian.... Come on people, was this not effectively done already in the vastly superior 28 Days Later? Even its sequel, 28 Weeks Later (which I think I enjoyed even more than the first) was a better example of zombies run amok.

Stressing the hand-held factor, a news crew is gathering interviews and data regarding an apparent flu of some sort that is spreading like wildfire in England. They talk to people on the crowded streets (some of whom are already wearing masks on their faces- and not the Halloween kind) and it does add a bit of a realistic feel to the movie. But if I wanted to see that crap I'd watch America's Funniest Home Videos (which I certainly DO NOT enjoy)...

The news crew ends up in the countryside (how convienient) where there are lots of old houses, barns, garages and the likes for the zombies to play hide and seek in.
Of course there is your obligatory zombie-thrashing and writhing in the grassy patches (does every zombie flick have that? I guess the red blood does look lovely against the green grass...?) and the dead, haunted eyes that are also a pre-requisite in the Romero-type shuffling zombie style.

The makeup effects aren't bad. The background music is effective enough.
But I was never once frightened, terrified, freaked-out or even slightly nervous.
There was simply nothing scary about Zombie Diaries and in fact, it was rather boring.
This is billed as one of Dimension's EXTREME HORROR flicks. Oh.My.God.
There was very little to no gore. At the very least they could have thrown in some good grue effects to keep things interesting.

I guess they were attempting to make a survival movie (?) or something similar, but for me - I'd take the original (or in this case, even the '90 sequel) Night of the Living Dead over this attempt. There is absolutely nothing new here.
I've read some other reviews in which people are comparing it to NOTLD and 28DL but to be honest, it can't hold a candle to those gems. Not even a match.
People who call it a low budget wonder could never have seen NOTLD or BWP. Period.
If I didn't know better I'd have thought ZD was a Uwe Boll crapfest.
I will give it props though, as I think it could quite possibly turn someone into a confused, moaning, half-dead zombie if they have to sit through the whole thing.

And the video camera shit? Can we just stop with that? Please.
Until there are ACTUAL zombies shambling about, keep your video recorders at home.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mirror mirror on the wall... this movie any fun at all?

In a nutshell, not really.

Recently I checked out Kiefer Sutherland (Mr.24) in the UNsurprisingly dull 'Mirrors'.

One of the most cliched films to come out last year, Mirrors tells the story of ex-cop Ben, who suffers from one of those typical cop hangups - I got somebody killed, fell into a deep alcoholic depression, and messed up my family life.

So he quits the force and ends up taking a job as a night-shift security guard for an old abandoned department store that is wrapped up in litigation due to a fire that destroyed almost the entire interior. He takes the place of the previous guard who, before we ever see Kiefer, slices his own throat (slowly for good effect) in a bloody expression of "I hate my job" syndrome.

So Kiefer has to roam the rooms and many floors of this old relic, which was burned out but still has all the old mannequins and mirrors everywhere, just to make sure there are no squatters or drug dealers, etc. After one night at this joint, I would have so been out of there. But no! Ben feels compelled to search the place after he hears strange noises, and seeks answers when he can't explain things.

Needless to say, he gets pretty wrapped up in the mystery of the place.
It is a very macabre and eerie pile of rubble. He starts seeing things in the mirrors (hence the brilliant title) and here's where the film does lend itself to some frightening images. Burned people seem to lurk around every corner, inside the mirrors. Some of the most disturbing scenes involve random people (even outside the store - people in Ben's life...) looking into the mirror and when they look away, their image in the mirror does not. Or it does something utterly horrifying, like rip its jaw apart. Cool stuff.

Some good gore is hidden behind alot of yawning, and there are several incidental and rather unimportant characters. There some kind of crap understory involving Ben's son, and multiple dramatic yet useless episodes between Ben & his estranged wife. But you have to sit through what could easily be part of a Lifetime movie of the week family drama to get to the grue.
And the ending, in which the mystery is resolved, leaves alot to be desired.
I can only assume once again, that the original Korean (Into the Mirror) film was better.

I didn't hate it, but I found myself drifting off near the end. I may check it out again at some point, to see if it was really less boring than I think it is.

Really the best scene in the whole movie...