Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Bloody Sunday


The Devil's Rejects

Skeleton Crew

Laid to Rest

Xtro 2

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

J-Horror Missteps : Guest Post

Recently I was approached about the possibility of someone else guest posting here at Fascination with Fear, and at first I was a tad apprehensive, as this blog is my baby, and though I've added a regular gig at The Blood Sprayer, I didn't want to hand over the reins or anything that drastic.
But after reading through what was sent my way, I was happily agreeable to accepting the article. After all, I could use a little help keeping up.

And so I give you the first post (because I'm hoping she'll do more!) by Camiele White.
Do give her a rousing welcome.

"J-Horror Films that Missed the Mark"

For anyone who is a fan of horror and has found themselves pining for something of the real fright and fantasy of the horror films of the 60s and 70s, Japanese horror (or affectionately named “J-Horror”) has become something of a godsend. Fanatics and freaks had seemingly found the safe haven that they’d been looking for from killer dolls and, worse, Killer Klowns from Outer Space. And just like the underground anime lovers before them, fans of J-Horror had been introduced to something that would yet again awaken imagination and curiosity. The subtlety, the atmosphere. Everything that came from Japan seemed to wring itself free from the annals of mindless gore and milkshake plot lines that made up the American films that came from the late 80s and have now found themselves seeping with the ooze-like reckless abandon of The Blob into American pop culture. Not only were the story lines better, they were better tied up. Even the gore was more extravagant, but the controlled chaos of Japanese directors allowed that the gore followed a purpose, if not to simply indulge in the insanity of a title character.


As with anything that we know and love, there are those J-Horror films that just miss the mark ever so slightly. Few and far between as they may be, there are those films that even made me miss the camp fodder of 1988. Whether silly, cliché, or just plain boring, these are the select few films that really didn’t do much to bring me back to J-Horror (thank God I saw The Eye first).

Ju-On: Though its American counterpart, The Grudge, was nothing more than a half-assed attempt at giving Buffy fans another dose of their muse, Ju-On didn’t necessarily win any awards for creativity. After having been a fan of Japanese horror for quite some time, after a while any fan would’ve noticed the same plot line twisting itself around relatively thin dialogue. It isn’t so much the photography of the film that distressed me --if anything that’s what gives it such a lasting impression. Given the budget restraints within which director, Takashi Shimkizu, had to work, it’s a masterpiece of cunning cinematography. The actual problems I had with the film have nothing to do with the film’s ambition. The acting is slipshod and the incessant meowing becomes more monotonous than the now infamous throat groaning. Of course, then the sin to end all sins: the film takes a turn for the American and a cute tutor chick climbs into a creepy attic --because logically if I’m in a house all by myself, the first thing I’m going to do is investigate why there’s a hole in the cupboard leading to the attic. Obviously! It’s the almost brutally obvious turns and twists that the film takes that, unfortunately, makes it fall flat --a sheer case of potential unfulfilled.

Rasen: Though the Ringu series was and remains very successful, there was one film that managed to escape even the watchful eye of the Japanese. Rasen, Ringu’s original sequel, was released at the same time as the first film in hopes of both films garnering a bigger buzz. However, Rasen was quickly swept under the rug, forgotten by even the studio. Written and directed by two different sets of crew, yet sharing the same cast, the film was seemingly doomed from the start. It almost gets you involved when it suddenly just becomes ridiculous. When dissected cadavers start talking to doctors in attempts to create the atmosphere of tortured psychology, you’ve basically taken me out of the film. What’s even more off-putting is after having watched the notorious film, our protagonist, Dr. Ando, gets a freak fest instead of a phone call. I’ve actually never seen a film do so little with so much --it’s like watching Spain lose to the Swiss in the first round of the World Cup.

Shikoku: Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a good ghost story/exorcism. However, Shikoku sort of throws viewers for a loop. Opening up with a supposed demon extraction, the film initially shows promise. However, directly after this four minute foray into classic cinematic history, the film goes all lovey-dovey and sort of misses the boat. A spoiled brat who wants to leave her village mixed with a recurrent theme in most J-Horror (the ghost bitch with a grudge) sort of leaves the audience yawning before the second half of the film. It’s not that it’s necessarily a bad horror flick, as far as horror flicks go, but it suffers from the same curse as Ju-On --predictability (only this brand of prediction doesn’t exactly comfort the audience into believing that the film will get any better). There’s always a little girl; she always dies; a family is torn to pieces and leaves a village in the throes of a demon curse that just won’t quit. What else is new?

This is, obviously, by no means an exhaustive list --I’ve left out the obvious game-to-movie (or vice-versa) genre which has a very low success rate even in Japan. I also haven’t seen tons of J-Horror films. I’ve seen my fair share, but not enough to suggest that I’m an expert; that’s why this list is so small.

Although there are only three that actually got me riled up enough to write this blog, these three actually deterred me from J-Horror for about six months --if I’m just going to get the same rehash over and over again, what’s the difference between this and the other American movies that have been released in the past 20 years? What about it, though? Since the topic has been broached, in what films have the beloved Japanese just seemed to allow their cinematic skills to fall short? After all, everyone can’t be Takashi Miike.

Article writer by day, renegade poet by night, Camiele White loves any and everything film. She chases only the original (or incredibly funny) and has been known to talk for hours about subjects that most people just don’t care about. Right now, she gets her jabber-jaw jollies at Halloween costumes If you want to give her a buzz, she can be reached at cmlewhite at

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Bloody Sunday: JAWS edition

In honor of the 35 anniversary of Jaws, various pics from the movie series (original thru part 4)...

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Here's to swimmin' with bow-legged women!": Sharkathalon fever catches on!

So, I had to get in on the SHARKATHALON!!

Over at Radiation-Scarred Reviews, they are having loads of fun with their shark week, aptly named SHARKATHALON! (which I simply had to say again because I like the way it rolls off my tongue!).... and though I didn't write anything new, I thought I'd put a link up for my little JAWS discussion that I did last fall.

You see, Jaws is my favorite horror movie, and I just can't help myself.
So check out my thoughts on 'serving up the citizens of Amity as a smörgåsbord!' HERE...

...and enjoy all the sharky entertainment over at RSR!!

Oh, and you ARE gonna need a bigger boat, by the way!

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Splice of life..

Often a movie comes along that gets mixed reviews from my fellow horror bloggers - we all have varying opinions, even within the genre we love so much. But I'm here to tell you I loved Splice, regardless if each and every one of my cohorts disagrees. I'm not the biggest sci-fi fan, I generally take the straight horror fork in the road more often - but I am certainly down with good science fiction - after all, one of my favorite television shows was The X-Files.

Splice (if you've been living under a rock and don't know) is the story of two genetic engineers who are in the top of their field and on the cusp of huge success and fame with their recent hybrid race made from splicing the DNA of different animals together. It's thought that the new "species" can assist in vastly important medical discoveries and advancements.

However, our couple (and they are a 'couple' as well as work partners) persists in asking their pharmaceutical corporate sponsors for permission to try using human DNA in their experiments, believing this could be the breakthrough of the century. Naturally, due to ethical and moral reasons, the powers-that-be adamantly refuse.

This doesn't stop Elsa and Clive (great Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein homages by the way!) - they secretly blend the animal DNA with human, and after countless failures finally strike gold. They get the right combination and the splice takes hold.

Soon, their hybrid mix is growing beyond comprehension, and waaay too fast. They incubate it in a hush-hush manner, hiding away in the lab to work on an 'undisclosed' experiment. Soon Elsa and Clive are the proud parents of a... creature, for lack of a better word. It comes into the world many months early and fairly pissed off. But soon Elsa makes friends with the little sprout, who grows like a weed both physically and mentally.

Before long, the hybrid is putting Scrabble letters together, making words and astounding her 'parents' at her hyper intelligence. When she spells the word NERD after seeing it on a t-shirt, Elsa decides calling her by a lab number is no longer acceptable and she reverses the word, choosing to name the little one DREN.

At one point in their cloak-and-dagger venture, Dren develops a fever - an unknown illness that seems to drag her down to the point of death, until Clive - after placing her in a cold bath to drop her temp - realizes she needs to be under the water, like an amphibian. Only after Dren regains consciousness does Elsa figure out Clive was helping her, not drowning her. So it's decided she needs access to a body of water at all times, though she is certainly not limited to it.

Dren soon becomes a bit too much to hide in the basement of the lab anymore, so they move her to Elsa's family farmhouse, which has obviously been abandoned for many years. There is a mini side story about Elsa's mother in which we aren't given full disclosure but it is apparent that her mother had mental problems and probably didn't treat Elsa the best. Nevertheless, they stow Dren away in the large barn, taking turns watching her and keeping her occupied and her mind stimulated.

They lavish her with toys and gifts but continue to tell her she cannot go outside. Dren attempts to keep a barn cat, but Elsa forbids it, causing Dren obvious sadness and distress. By this time she is fully grown and appears to be a young woman, albeit a bit of a strange-looking one. Dren is quite bored, and when she escapes and runs up on the roof, Clive and Elsa follow her, imploring her to come back inside. It is only when Clive tells her they love her that she turns around and runs into his arms.

From that point, things get a little hairy. Folks at the lab (including Clive's brother Gavin) become suspicious about Elsa missing work and Clive's lack of enthusiasm on their (legit) project. Then a major accident involving said project brings the calamity of the situation to the forefront - and that, combined with Dren's increasingly unusual - bordering on violent - behavior - wreaks havoc on their happy little home.

Splice put me through a lot of different emotions when watching it. Nothing actually scared me, truth be told, but I think it only fair to give credit where credit is due. I loved wee Dren - she was like a puppy at the pet store you beg your mom to let you bring home. As she grew, my emotions stayed steady - I felt for the little bugger. She was an outcast - a reject of science - yet so darned cute all the same. Her own feelings seemed intact, with her desiring both a physical and emotional connection with her faux parents. She wanted love.

But in all experiments, things rarely go as planned. Clive warns Elsa going in that what they are doing is morally wrong, but neither can help themselves - and even as Clive comes to his senses after thinking about killing Dren on a few occasions early on, Elsa very nearly does a bit later in the film. Whether or not it was intentional, I won't say. I will mention that things get very ugly, very quickly. And any aspirations budding geneticists may have about DNA splicing may go right out the window after seeing this film.

The acting is very good, in particular by the two leads. Anyone who thinks Adrien Brody (Clive) cannot act has never seen The Pianist. He's great here, attempting to be the voice of reason against all the increasing madness. And what do I need to say about Sarah Polley (Elsa)? She's an actor (perhaps most famous to genre fans as Ana in the remake of Dawn of the Dead), screenwriter and director (Academy Award nominated at that, for Away From Her), singer, and political activist. But let's face it, she's just good at what she does, and is beyond credible in this role. Together, Polley and Brody exude both compassion and compunction about their dealings with Dren. On one hand, they want very much to see her grow to her full potential, even though they have NO idea what that potential might be. And at the same time, they are trying to be fair and appropriate parental figures for Dren. Certainly a conundrum in the truest sense of the word.
Well, you know what the 'Stones say: You can't always get what you want.

I believe the special effects were done quite well here. The lovely Delphine Chanéac played Dren, and obviously whomever gave her the eerie, wide-eyed look of our spliced hybrid knew their stuff. She is hauntingly beautiful, even as the eccentric lab-grown cross-species. And though I've never been privy to what goes on in a first-class, highly funded medical genetics laboratory, I have to say it all looked reasonably legit to me. But then again, I'm not one of these people who picks apart details just to be crass. Again I say, looked pretty damn good to me.

All in all, I guess I feel I have to defend Splice because I've actually heard some fairly derogatory remarks about it. I don't get why. What are you fans expecting? Another Alien? We may never see that again, people! Splice had a decent storyline, even if watered down a bit from the sci-fi gore some are used to. It had sex, nudity, violence, action, and blood. Furthermore, the acting was really good and the effects above average.
But it was the actual character of Dren that had me loving the movie - you feel yourself sucked into her dilemma, her boredom and lack of self-worth that hit me in the gut. You really hoped things got better for her. Once she finally started to blossom though, the film moved to a whole other level. An even better, more disturbing level, in my opinion.

Directed by Vincenzo Natali and exec produced by none other than Guillermo del Toro (which should say something already), Splice is a hybrid itself in a sea swimming with re-makes, re-imaginings, and re-hashes - a sliver of hope in the vast universe of monotonous horror and sci-fi.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Steel Trap (2009) : Help! I'm trapped in bad movie hell!!

I kind of like crappy movies. Sometimes.
But not this time.

So I pretty much hated everyone in this cast (save one) within approximately ten minutes.
A group of adults are at a New Year's Eve party on the top floor of an abandoned skyscraper. A fairly bad band is singing a fairly bad alt-rocked up version of Auld Lang Syne and everyone is mingling. We have Wade - the rock band's lead singer and an obvious lothario, Pam -a slut (great combo already), Nicole -an unattractive bitch who thinks she is attractive, Robert -her boyfriend who was planning on proposing until he saw her kissing another creep (the lothario) when the clock struck twelve, Kathy -a complete and utter Rachael Ray rip-off, and Pam -a business woman who so wants to represent our kitchen queen that all she gets done doing is kissing her ass.

So they all start getting ridiculous cryptic rhyming messages on their cell phones telling them to meet on another floor for a "special" party. Somehow I doubt anyone in their right mind would actually do this, but for the sake of the movie, I continued.
This random group of nobodies all ends up at party central - which is basically looks like a kid's birthday party, complete with balloons, paper tablecloths, cups and plates, confetti, and badly handwritten place cards. (Say what.....???)

They find "clues" by the way of nursery rhymes (which is really annoying by the way) and as they stupidly split up and wander around the hallways search for answers, we - the audience - get to see the killer strolling around all giallo-like in his black gloves setting up his various traps - which brings to mind a little movie I call "Saw". Especially when the gang tries to discover how they are all connected. If we'd combine Saw and Laid to Rest (because our killer wears a mask that looks kinda like molten aluminum foil), then divide it by that book of nursery rhymes your mom read to you when you were three, I think the result would be this film.

The acting here is so horrifically bad that I cannot begin to justify it. I was especially unimpressed with the bitchy chick - she looked a bit like Molly Shannon but nowhere near as funny, not even unintentionally. I can't even bring myself to post her pic, she was so trite. And when the cooking show honey had just about the most unrealistic, unbelievable seizure I've ever seen - and she practically jumped to her feet directly afterward, launching into a tirade about what they should do next. (Well, at least she didn't try driving a car, right?)

My favorite line is "I don't want to die in the dark." Seriously? Is it better to get killed in the light? I'm thinking no. I'd rather not see it coming, but maybe that's just me. How about not dying at all, that'd be altogether cool, I'm thinking.

So while our laughable group is whittled down to four, we realize the killer is watching everything on video, getting off on the murders. Yep, that's never been done before. Could this really be any more like Saw? The gloved weirdo takes pleasure in killing them according to his little poems, and to be honest I saw the 'twist' ending coming a mile away.

I must also mention - if for no other reason than simply principle - that the DVD cover itself is utterly misleading. The girl on the cover did not look familiar. At all. Not only do I have no idea who she is, I have no idea where she is. This person, to my knowledge, is not even in the film, nor is the location. Also good to note is the nonsensical tag line about surviving each my knowledge it takes place mostly on a few floors, and they really have nothing to do with "the game". Cripes!

All joking aside, there is seriously little to defend in this shit-storm of malarkey. It's unoriginal, painstakingly boring, poorly acted, and just downright a waste of time. Believe me when I say you just can't wait till it's over! I read somewhere (before seeing this, natch) that the movie was loosely based on Agatha Christie's novel, Ten Little Indians (a.k.a. And Then There Were None) but after finishing this movie, I have only one word to say to that...*cough cough*.... Bullshit!

I'm saddened at my contemptible Netflix movie-choosing skills. I usually have better judgment than this and this, combined with the nearly-as-awful Skeleton Crew (review forthcoming), would have made for a pretty bad weekend of horror, if I hadn't stuck a Vincent Price movie in the middle of them.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Bloody Sunday: True Blood Edition

Today's the day! Fanfare all around, please.
True Blood soaks its way back into our lives tonight at 9:00 p.m. (EST) on HBO...
And I just felt like celebrating!

And if you're sick of hearing about it, you've never seen it - or you have no taste.
So there.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!