Thursday, January 31, 2013

Snowbound: Winter Horror Films To Keep You Warm ~Part 2


One of my very favorite films is steeped in cold dread as four men face the irresponsible and costly mistakes of their youth. A freezing winter setting is perfect for the ghostly happenings that descend upon the small New England town of Milburn. There is a quiet uneasiness about the whole film as it follows a group of older gents that when in college, met the beautiful and enigmatic Eva Galli. A horrific accident puts Eva in her grave - but she doesn't quite stay there.  While some people complain about it being too slow, or that it doesn't follow author Peter Straub's book close enough (and I've long considered Straub's book my favorite novel) - it didn't bother me. The weather plays a big part in Ghost Story, as their little Vermont town is front and center and overtaken by snow at every turn.  It even has some lovely wintery deaths (a man falls off a bridge into a frozen river, another is attacked in his car while driving down a snowy road and ends up into a snow bank, etc.) and then there's the fact that Eva Galli has been under snow and ice in the pond for over fifty years...and she's pretty pissed.  A well-worth it slow burn with loads of atmosphere and many chilling scenes that will stick with you for a long time to come. /CH


Having survived the massacre at the abandoned hotel, Jannicke finds her way to a hospital. Much to her chagrin, the body of the maniac she tossed over an icy precipice has been recovered along with her dead friends, and brought to the same hospital. On closer inspection, the doctors discover he is not dead at all… Cold Prey II is a supreme slasher sequel. Picking up directly where the first film leaves off (in the first of many nods to Halloween II) it maintains the suspense and adds to the back-story. Aware of its status as a slasher sequel, but not in a Kevin Williamson kinda way, it has a bigger cast, higher body count and more elaborate kills, but still unravels as a refreshingly intelligent horror film. The body count may be higher, but the bodies are fully developed characters that react realistically to their predicament. The draughty, eerily deserted hospital setting emphasises the isolation and vulnerability of the characters. The explanation for its emptiness is rooted in social commentary and mirrors the plight of many small rural communities in Norway. Adding to the creepy atmosphere is the ever-wintry environs of the rural setting. Not a good place to be stranded when a psycho is on the loose…/JG


Looking for meteorites near the South Pole, an unexpected murder investigation goes south as Kate Beckinsale tries to discover who is on the right side of the law. When an unknown body is discovered in a remote location, it doesn't take anyone too long to realize death by ax in the Antarctic isn't exactly the norm. While it's somewhat hard to fathom Beckinsale as a US Marshall, I suppose belief can be suspended for a few hours while we watch her try to nab a killer. Time is of the essence though, as if they are too late boarding the final plane out before a monster storm, they will be stuck there for six months - with a murderer.  Not the best plot ever, but the howl of the antarctic wind, the brutal temps and non-stop blizzard conditions pack a frigid punch. /CH


This ‘tender tale of terror’ was a follow up Cat People, the first in a series of moody, literate horror films produced by Val Lewton in the 1940s. It told of Serbian immigrant Irena who believes she descends from a race of people who turn into slathering panthers when their passions are aroused. Her marriage to the All-American Oliver becomes increasingly strained, and when Oliver begins an affair with his co-worker Alice, Irena’s heartbreak and jealously unlocks a side of her she had previously tried to suppress… Whereas Cat People, one of the first films to reference the work of Sigmund Freud, plays out as a dark and unflinching study of sexual repression and anxiety, Curse unravels as a haunting study of childhood fears and psychology, as Oliver and Alice’s young daughter makes a new friend who bears an uncanny similarity to her father’s now-dead first wife. Is her friend imaginary or is something more sinister afoot? Directed by Robert Wise, Curse is another evocative Lewton production which demonstrates how effective the ‘less is more’ approach to horror can be. Choosing to suggest horror rather than show it outright, Curse is a beautifully moody and atmospheric tale. Much of the story unfurls around Christmas time and there’s a particularly memorable moment when Irena reveals herself to Amy in the garden; light and shadows dancing and moving across the snow-covered scene./JG

MISERY (1990)One of the best Stephen King adaptations to date, Misery not only showcased the stellar acting talents of both Kathy Bates and James Caan, but it made everyone think twice about admitting to being a "number 1 fan:" of anything.  Paul Sheldon leaves his writing haven during a blinding snowstorm and finds himself down an embankment and into a snowbank, soon to be rescued by one Annie Wilkes. Conveniently, Annie is a former nurse with knowledge of orthopedic injuries and an endless supply of pain killers.  Unfortunately for Paul, she's also fucking crazy.  The tension that ensues as Paul begins to realize he may never get out of Annie's remotely located snowed-in farmhouse only ratchets up further when she finds out he's been out of his locked room.  Not only that, but he killed off Annie's favorite character in his famous Misery Chastain romances. Over time the snow piles up higher and higher, as does Paul's fears - until he devises a plan to escape.  But Annie's punishments are ever-so hobbling humbling. A really great film to watch on a snowy Sunday afternoon./CH


Revolving around two unacquainted university students driving home for Christmas and becoming stranded in a snow storm on a haunted stretch of road in the middle of nowhere, Wind Chill has much to recommend it. Described by its screenwriter Steven Katz as an attempt to create “the world’s smallest ghost story”, the majority of the film is set within a small, draughty car stalled on the snow-smothered roadside. Boasting a creepy intimacy which is enhanced by well-drawn characters, an unnerving atmosphere, claustrophobic setting and unrelenting chilliness, much of the uneasiness, to begin with anyway, comes from the frosty relationship between the two characters. Although events eventually venture out into the snowy night beyond the relative safety of the car, they do so only briefly, and what unfolds there, in the dark, icy forest, will have you longing to be back inside the car. Disturbing encounters and spectral visions bolster the wintry tone and up the tension, as do the secretive and ambiguous nature of Ashton Holmes’ character, and his true intentions regarding his offer to drive Emily Blunt home. Sadly, if the overall foundering atmospherics don’t freeze your blood, the unsurprising reveal will leave you feeling somewhat cold…/JG

LET ME IN (2010)

When it was announced that an American remake was in the works for the already perfect LTROI made only a few years before, outrage within the horror community seemed imminent. The original film, based on the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist, was a fantastic tale about a adolescent young boy and his relationship with a cold-hearted killer - a vampire stuck in the body of a twelve-year-old who has been feeding off humans for decades. The remake tells the same story, basically. The two actors in the main roles (Chloë Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee) were excellent as Abby and Owen, able to convey true depth of emotion well beyond their young years. As the two get to know each other in a snow-covered courtyard of their apartment building, we slowly become aware that Abby is something other than just your average pre-teen.  Winter horror abounds here, with frozen lakes, snowy schoolyards, and plenty of the red stuff on white. For as quietly wonderful and genuinely terrifying as the original film is, this redux is - while not its equal - an extremely good Americanized version. In my opinion not to be missed, and I don't say that about too many remakes! /CH

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Re-casting The Shining. Yes, I went there.

As many know, I'm not a big fan of remakes.
But I thought it would be fun to recast The Shining with my dream cast.  Not that I would ever want to see a remake of that classic (and quite honestly I don't care for the Stephen King-endorsed TV version from 1997 - partially because I detest Steven Weber in nearly everything), but since nothing seems to be sacred I figured I may as well re-imagine it myself.

And since The Shining takes place during winter and showcases a pretty nasty snowstorm, it fits within the realm of winter horror.

So here goes:

Jack Torrance:  Paul Giamatti - It's only natural that I'd pick Giamatti for the main role, as he is one of my favorite actors and has the serious acting chops to take this role in the various directions that it wanders to. He can play a quirky writer, we've established that with both American Splendor and Sideways. And I know he can act like a total nut-job (see Shoot 'Em Up, John Dies at the End). So I can see him going from mild mannered father who likes a drink or two to crazed, off-the-wagon psychopath with murderous intent and a crazed look in his eyes.  Like so:

Moving on to the light of Jack's life, Wendy...
It was hard for me to decide just who looks pathetic enough to pull off the emotionally abused and wildly confused Wendy Torrance.  And then after this year's Golden Globes it came to me... Anne Hathaway!
She has just the right combination of frumpy and bewildered that this character dictates.  After all, Shelley Duvall owned that role. (You probably would too after working with Stanley Kubrick and his countless script changes and hundreds of re-takes.)  Anne Hathaway has kind of come into her own these last few years and she really says Wendy to me.  She can look disheveled, chaotic, and wracked with fear better than most.

Danny. Now this one was tough, because of course I'm not too familiar with child actors. But after perusing the internet a bit, this little guy (and his bright blue eyes) jumped out at me. Currently Benjamin Stockham is starring as one of the president's children on the television comedy 1600 Penn. I'm fairly certain he could pull off that 'deer in the headlights' gaze that Danny is so famous for.  Only this time around, the stare will come from blue, not brown eyes.  I can almost hear him now "Redrum! Redrum! Redrum!'...

Dick Halloran. I had a myriad of choices on this one.  Hard to nail down.  I thought....Denzel?   Sam Jackson?  Even Morgan Freeman?  But then I thought... Don Cheadle! Yes!  I love nearly everything Cheadle does and can definitely see him interacting with our Danny and discussing the SHINE over a bowl of ice cream (but we're making that ice cream strawberry in my movie because well....I like it better).
Sure, Freeman would have been closer in age to the original Scatman Crothers when he played the Overlook cook, but there's just something about Cheadle that says yes. And I can absolutely see him chilling out in his bedroom in Florida with perhaps a poster of Jackie Brown behind him. Oh yes, he'll even put up a good fight with our Jack....who knows how it will turn out.  Maybe I'll change the ending and have him driving Danny down the Sidewinder in the snowcat.  Witness the coolness:

When casting Delbert Grady, I had to choose someone whose demeanor is relatively humdrum and monotone.  The original caretaker, Grady's part in the film is to guide Jack to his inevitable poor decisions by relaying the history of the Overlook and placing those ideas oh-so-gently into Jack's head.  So I need someone who looks that part - unassuming yet determined to have things go according to plan.  Who better than Kevin Spacey?  He can play the restrained everyman next door pretty damn well (see: American Beauty), and yet has an edge that can be quietly horrifying (see: Seven).  I like him in this role. It suits him.

And who better than one of the best character actors in the biz' to play our loyal bartender, Lloyd. Yep, Steve Buscemi.  Lloyd is always at the ready with the Jack Daniels to help ol' Jack see the error of his ways and help him get drunk enough to take an ax and hunt down his wife and young son. Lloyd won't take money from Jack, we know that - and I can absolutely see Buscemi embodying the role of the laid-back barman - though I'm thinking he might have a touch more sass than Joe Turkel.  But that would make things more interesting, don't you think?

In the small role of Danny's doctor (who was literally nameless), I'm going to put Mary Steenburgen.  She always seems sincere yet she frightens me for some reason.  Maybe it's because she's married to Ted Danson - that would scare anyone.  Yet here she is - asking Danny just who the hell Tony is, perhaps even mimicking his finger acrobatics.

As for the Grady daughters (who weren't actually twins, which is a common misconception), I have no idea who would be creepy enough to play the girls....but here's a thought....

"Come and play with us, Danny......."
Now here's where it gets interesting. I decided to put a little cameo in here.  We're going to have Jack Nicholson as Stuart Ullman, the manager of the Overlook and the bearer of bad news as far as the hotel's menacing history. Wouldn't that be the bomb - to get Nicholson to do just a cameo would be extremely difficult anyway as I'm sure he pretty much sees himself as a leading man - even at his age.  But let's just go there for shits & giggles.  I'd love it. It would certainly be the best part of the movie for us hard-core Shining aficionados!

So there you have it.  I know there are a few other very minor roles (like a few other Overlook employees and the ranger at the station) but for the most part, I think we got the major ones covered.
What do you think?  Yay or Nay?  Who would you cast?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Snowbound: Winter Horror Films To Keep You Warm ~Part 1

The idea for a two-week span of winter-focused horror isn't hard to imagine with the winter we've been having.

Here in western PA, it's been downright nasty, with heaps of snow, ice, freezing rain, and plenty of frigid temps - the kind of cold air that freezes your nostrils when you step outside.

 Not sure it's been as bad in St. Louis where Marie is, but winter is winter - and we thought it'd be fun to set aside some time this year to highlight the frosty season. 

There are just SO many films to talk about that it's a sure thing that all of them will not be mentioned, but we wanted to spotlight as many as we can in these two weeks, so we're splitting them into parts. 

Best of all, we've got some help from across the pond for our fortnight of fun.  Belfast-based writer James Gracey of the fantastic blog Behind the Couch has agreed to help us out by writing about some of our chosen films. If you've never visited Behind the Couch, you simply must.  James writes some of the most insightful, astute, and absorbing reviews on the interwebz. Plus he's a really good friend, so I'd like to personally thank him for his most gracious gift of time.  I know that besides his terrific blog (and in addition to his actual day job), he's busy writing for such quality publications as Paracinema , Diabolique, and Exquisite Terror, among othersSavor his words, folks.  He knows what he's talking about here.

So onward with the first installment of frosty flicks that you can turn to on a cold winter's night - or spend an entire shivery weekend with when you're snowbound and trying to fend off the cabin fever.....


No list of winter horrors would be complete without the first film many think of when categorizing snowbound frights.  A former school teacher takes his wife and young son to the Overlook Hotel, a resort high in the Rockies that is regrettably located on an Indian burial ground.  Jack Torrance has been hired as the winter caretaker because the hotel becomes completely snowed in during the winter and getting up the Sidewinder Mt is a sheer impossibility.   As the temperature drops and the snow begins to pile up, Jack also has his own worries that don’t include whether the boiler is functioning alright.  Meanwhile, their strangely psychic son begins to sense something is very, VERY wrong at the Overlook.  While the film has subtle hints of terror throughout, it also gives us violent bursts of horror near the end with Jack beginning to lose his sense of reality as the frigid wind and endless snowfall make it impossible to leave the hotel.  The final act of the film - the chase through the snow-covered hedge maze - are terrifying and show just how well Kubrick has planned out the frosty ending. /CH

COLD PREY (2006)

A group of friends on a snowboarding excursion in deepest, whitest Norway seek refuge in a seemingly abandoned hotel after an accident. As a snowstorm howls outside, it soon becomes apparent to the group that they are not alone in the hotel… Deft execution, detailed characterisation, a deeply eerie atmosphere and brutally cold location sets this apart from the plethora of post-Scream slashers. A slow-building sense of dread and isolation is evident from the get-go and Cold Prey benefits from a script that consistently subverts expectations. When the group discover they are not alone at the draughty hotel, they do everything they’re supposed to: stick together, try to formulate a reasonable plan, arm themselves and support each other. Of course, they’re still doomed, but at least it’s refreshing to see characters in a slasher film use their heads. Consistently cranking up the tension and icy atmospherics, offering us an imposing killer and featuring a damn good final girl in Jannicke (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) – Cold Prey is one of the most compelling, suspenseful and freezing slashers in recent memory./JG


Nothing says snowbound like being in the remote Arctic, even if it‘s your job. The fight to drill in the Alaskan wilderness heats up as a group of oil company employees start to experience strange occurrences at their site. The frozen tundra is the perfect place to have the eyes play tricks on you. Various members of the team start to hallucinate, even going as far as to wander outside in the Arctic temperatures - naked. What is out there in the snow?  The spirit of the Wendigo seems to make an appearance here as a catalyst between man and nature - and how the Earth might possibly be letting us know she’s had enough of our relentless ignoring of the environment. A slow burn, for sure - but if you can stick with it, everything but the very end is relatively unsettling, and the claustrophobia of being stuck together for a long period of time takes its toll./CH


A horror sequel that not only matches its predecessor in terms of quality and originality, but one that also expands and further explores the original story, is a rare thing. Ginger Snaps Back is one such sequel. While the first film tells of a young woman who is attacked by a werewolf on the night she begins to menstruate, and its sequel follows the plight of her similarly afflicted sister, this unexpected third instalment transports the story back to 19th Century Canada. Two sisters, Brigette and Ginger, seek refuge from the grip of winter in a traders' fort which comes under siege by a group of savage werewolves. Like its forbearers, this film locks together menstrual cycles and lycanthropy to reflect on monstrous pubescence and darkly humorous body-horror. Not just a rehash of the first film, Ginger Snaps Back has more than a few surprises up its fine-furred sleeve. By confining the story to a single location, the events boast a tremendous sense of desperation and claustrophobia, as cabin fever and snowstorms reach fever pitch, and all is enrobed in a wintry, desolate and utterly chilling atmosphere. /JG

 THE THAW (2009)

More environmental distress. Research scientists in the Arctic discover a wooly mammoth frozen in the ice and snow. Intrigued but cautious, the team tranquilizes a polar bear nearby which promptly dies when they get it back to their research station.  Soon after, members of the team fall ill with a mysterious malady just about the time lead scientist David (Val Kilmer)'s daughter (Martha MacIssac) arrives as an intern.  Deducing that the polar bear had apparently been feeding off the thawing mammoth, they also discover a bizarre bug was thawed along with it and apparently infected the polar bear. Hence, several members of the team have now been contaminated.  Attempting to be a cautionary tale about global warming and sticking your nose where it doesn't belong, The Thaw is a surprisingly effective creep-fest that will have you thinking. /CH


Whether viewed as a dark and despairing critique of contemporary society’s obsession with voyeurism and ‘reality TV’, or a tightly wound, slow-burning slasher, My Little Eye is an effective shocker that succeeds admirably on all levels. A group of strangers audition for a Big Brother style web-series in which they are required to stay at a remote house in the middle of snowbound nowhere, while their every move is recorded by myriad CCTV cameras throughout the house and broadcast to viewers of a private website. Events take a turn for the sinister when the group realise the site they’re being broadcast on is a snuff site… It’s bad enough that the group take their time to realise something suspicious and deeply sinister is afoot, and that they are so isolated, but to top it all off, they’re entrenched in boundless snow and freezing temperatures, making their odds of hiking out of the house pretty much impossible. Bloody murders, paranoia, creepy night-vision camera work and the notion that someone or something is ‘out there’ in the dark snowy night wrap My Little Eye in an icy, claustrophobic grip that refuses to relent./JG

Monday, January 28, 2013

Mindless Movie Monday: Hypothermia: So Painful It's Funny (the movie, not the condition)

In keeping with our 'winter horror' theme, I give you one of the worst movies I have seen in several years.

Hypothermia is a frozen romp of ridiculous proportions that has only one good thing going for it.  Michael Rooker. He is the glue that (tries) to hold this lame-ass film together, which is insanely difficult given the absolutely absurd "monster" that is terrorizing the group of ice-fishermen in this horrible film.

Larry Fessenden, director of such other snowy delights as Wendigo and The Last Winter, obviously has some sort of real fetish with winter settings for his films.  And though I've seen both Wendigo and The Last Winter and enjoyed them (the former more than the latter), this film really left a lot to be desired. Low budget or not, Fessenden was really phoning this one in.

Ray Pelletier (Rooker), his wife Helen (Blanch Baker), son David (Benjamin Hugh Abel Forster), and David's girlfriend Gina (Amy Chang) have rented a lakeside cottage for a fun weekend of ice-fishing. I suppose this constitutes as fun in some circles.  I prefer to fish when it is above 50 degrees - or better yet at the seafood department of my local supermarket.
When we first meet Ray, he's out on the ice, trying to find a good spot for the next day's adventure in ice fishing.  Whether not paying attention or pure accident, Ray falls through a think place in the ice and if son David hadn't come looking would have certainly died of hypothermia (hence the name, natch).

At first, I couldn't recall where I'd seen Baker, until some internet investigating turned up the fact that she played Ruth Chandler in The Girl Next Door - a film I hated passionately. So that didn't help her case. She was seriously hard to watch in this movie, her acting totally wooden and inept. The actor portraying David has next to no emotion in his acting and so I'd have to say it was rather painful to watch him also. Chang did a decent job as Gina, so I was hoping there would be a scenario in which she and Rooker were the last ones standing. 

But there were two more cast members to speak of.  Once Ray and Co. set up their little camp upon the ice and settle in to have bologna sandwiches and idle chatter, their solace is interrupted by an utterly obnoxious fisherman and his son who roll in with a big truck towing a camper trailer and snowmobiles. Steve Cote (Don Wood) and Stevie (Greg Finley) like to drink a lot of beer and eventually shout across the lake for Ray and his family to join them.  Steve has a New York/New Jersey mindset, with the accent to complete it. He thinks he's all that and a bag of potato chips and is unforgivably annoying. And loud, dammit.

Knowing if they don't make an appearance at the Cote trailer, the father-son team probably won't ever shut the hell up.  They make their way over and discuss the fact that there don't seem to be any fish in the lake.
What the hell happened to all the fish? They ponder this for way too long until they see something ominously large under the surface of the lake go swimming by, which causes a ruckus among the men and in a moment of stupidity Stevie sticks his hand into the water only to have the giant fish rake his sharp fin over his arm, tearing it open. 

Speaking of stupid acts, older Steve feels it unnecessary to take his son to the hospital, preferring instead to man-up and have a steak dinner.  Gina (who apparently has some medical training) cleans up Stevie's wound (which is practically festering at this point) and the men step outside to see if they can "catch this bitch!"
We see a lot of the fish-monster swimming just under the ice, and as you can imagine, the group starts dwindling as people start to die.
Despite all this foolishness, I can't say Michael Rooker does a bad job. In fact, he acts his pants off - giving his all to a pointless script. And while nothing can save the preposterous circumstances the cast finds themselves in, at least there is a bit of decent gore in here to get the audience by.

But here's what puts the nail in the proverbial coffin.  The monster is completely and utterly ridiculous. It is like a cross between the Creature from the Black Lagoon, a Sleestak, and the Cheshire Cat. I really cannot stress how thoroughly hilarious this "creature" is. If I thought it was a worthwhile film, I wouldn't show you what he looks like, so the element of surprise would still be there.  But forgive me I just can't help myself.
Witness if you will, the most laughable monster in film, perhaps ever.

I'm not sure what else I really need to say here, except that despite the fact that the body count keeps on rising it doesn't seem to deter our deadly aquatic creature from using his Crest Whitestrips.  He's got the nicest smile from here to Okinawa. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Bloody Sunday: Winter Horror Edition, Part 1


Let The Right One In





Dead Snow

Friday, January 25, 2013

Kinky Sex And Horror. You KNOW You Wanna Read This Post ~ So Just Do It...

By Marie & Christine

I  (Marie here) attended a screening of director Park Chan-wook's (Old Boy, Thirst) new film, "Stoker" the other day and boy did I love it. If you are familiar with his work, you have an idea of the mastery of this powerhouse filmmaker.

Although he doesn't write the original stories for the films he directs, he seems to have a specific taste, and one of the recurring subjects he deals with is unconventional sexuality.

Stoker stars Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker, an 18-year-old girl whose father has died suddenly in an accident. An uncle (Matthew Goode) she never previously new to exist comes to live with her and her cold, caustic mother (Nicole Kidman). He is an unpredictable and mysterious character who India soon becomes infatuated with.

Without spoiling anything, I will just say that there are many examples of strange sex in this film, some that will make you cringe or say, "Ew", but is undeniably interesting.
What gets some people off may seem strange and we often feel the need to search for roots and reasons to explain such, but when it comes down to it these are our most primal thoughts and feelings.

Let's take this opportunity to explore some (mostly) horror films that deal with taboo sex. Christine has helped me out with a few additions as well.

Lars von Trier's controversial film deals with a couple whose life is shattered when their baby boy dies while they are having sex. The wife, billed only as "She", reveals to her husband on a secluded getaway that she has been working on a thesis on how women are the Antichrist. This movie is definitely worth a watch if you like to challenge yourself and watch really fucked up movies. I must warn you that this movie is extremely graphic, and you will never look at Charlotte Gainsbourg the same way again./MR

Two adolescent boys get much more than they bargained for when they act out their necrophilic urges on a corpse they find in an abandoned mental hospital. I remember picking up this movie at Blockbuster and this stranger dude standing next to me was like, "That's a good movie." And then I ran away./MR

This isn't technically a horror movie but I'm putting it on here. Sandra (Molly Parker) has always been fascinated with death, but her fascination becomes an infatuation when she gets a job as a mortician and finds a passion for necrophilia. It's a romance about fucking dead people, sounds weird, right? It is, and there are some really strange scenes.../MR

Pauline (Annalynne McCord) aspires to be a surgeon and has a special kink. She gets off on blood and gore. This film was extremely well received despite what some might consider icky subject matter./MR

Cronenberg's cult classic is about a man (James Woods) who is looking for the next extreme in television programming and brings the boob tube to a whole new level./MR

Also not horror but totally perverse nonetheless, another weird one from Cronenberg focuses on people who get off sexually on car accidents.  If it sounds too strange for words that's because it is. This film is so bizarre that James Spader has sex with Rosanna Arquette by using an open wound on her leg as a substitute for her vagina.  Very out there, even for Cronenberg./CH

I doubt you'll find a more disturbing film than this quick, thirty-minute stunner.  It is the dialogue-free short in which a mortician does the worst thing possible with a corpse, and I think you know where I'm going here. Really does give necrophilia a whole new meaning.  It is grotesque, disturbing, and just plain vile.  And you cannot take your eyes off it.
But be warned, it is not for the horror novice.
(And to be clear, the DVD cover above is from the third part of Cerdà's trilogy (!).  I couldn't bring myself to show the actual cover of Aftermath. And that's saying a lot.) /CH

Not a horror movie, but still quite bizarre just the same.  Tom Cruise and then-wife Nicole Kidman decide to explore their sexuality. Just not with each other.  Indecent rituals, secret societies in which masks and passwords are the norm, and orgies galore are alive and well here in this Kubrick sextravaganza./CH

I'm really can't even go there.  You shouldn't either.  Seriously one of the most foul films of sexual depravity and graphic and disturbing violence you will ever see.  Or not see, which really should be the case.  If you look up the word 'controversial' in the dictionary there needs to be a picture of this movie poster beside the word.
Enough said. /CH
There are so many other films that are sexually distressing and entirely interesting - such as Lost Highway, A Serbian Film, Blue Velvet, Teeth, and Cat People(1982)  to name a few...Perhaps a Part 2 will be forthcoming...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Black & White Realm Of Horror: Hour Of The Wolf

Review by Marie Robinson

Even though Ingmar Bergman is a damn good director, he has given the world only one true horror film. 1968's "Hour of the Wolf" (or "Vargtimmen") is a deeply atmospheric black and white film about a man and his wife and the time they spent an ocean-side cottage.

The film opens on the sweet and soft-spoken Alma (Liv Ullman) telling someone (us, perhaps) the story of her husband's disappearance. Her husband, Johan, is played by Max von Sydow, who seems to be a favorite of Bergman's. He's been acting for a solid 50+ years and still goin'. Also, I'm just going to put it out there that he is a weird looking man. I can never decide if I think he is good-looking or not.

Johan is a painter by profession and his personality fits that of most artists I've known; brooding, moody, and solitary. He begins acting strange and confesses to Alma that he is being haunted by a curious cast of characters, including an old woman whose face comes off when she takes off her hat and an old lover of Johan's. Because of these alarming entities, Johan suffers sleepless nights, forcing his wife to accompany him in consciousness until the dawn breaks.

Most of Johan's encounters come alive off of the pages of his journal, which Alma reads to try and get a grasp on her husband's increasing anxieties. The things we witness through Johan's written memories are bizarre and unsettling, and makes us question the mystery behind the man and his past.

The characters in this film are beautifully written. Alma and Johan bear an honest, true-to-life complexity, both as individuals and as a couple. The "ghosts" are wonderful in their spooky strangeness. Everyone gives a great performance, and Bergman gives his flawless direction.

I said before that the movie is cloaked in atmosphere, and the black and white film truly puts the edge on it. Shadows and darkness are crucial to the film, and there are many-a-haunting scene lit by candlelight.

As with any great ghost story, there is a huge psychological aspect. The viewer is always finding themselves cocking their head, pondering, "What is real?" In some films this is used as a weak attempt at profundity, but in "Hour of the Wolf" is a real, frightening connection the audience has with the characters. A good ghost story has you asking what's real or imagined. A great ghost story leaves you scratching your head about it long after the story's been told, and perhaps giving you no definitive evidence either way.

I will leave you with what is perhaps the world's longest tagline. "'The Hour of the Wolf' is the hour between night and dawn. It is the hour when most people die. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts and demons are most powerful".