Friday, September 27, 2013

The Black Waters Of Echo's Pond (2009): Bogged Down By Mediocrity

Stop me if you've heard this before. A group of archeologists stumble upon an ancient artifact in the middle east and all hell is unleashed upon the explorers' return. Hmm. The Exorcist, right?  Or maybe this one:  a group of friends travel to an isolated home for a weekend of recreational sex and drinking.  Cabin FeverEvil DeadApril Fool's Day?  I know! The Cabin in the Woods? Well what about this?  When friends find an ancient board game and decide to play, it's the worst mistake of their lives.  Witchboard? Open Graves, right?

No, no, and......NO.  What we have here is the antithesis of originality: The Black Waters of Echo's Pond. My oh my.  It's never a good sign when a movie sits on a shelf for several years, either. Generally means there was a reason for the delay.  In this case, it was mediocrity.

This should have been a decent film, and it does have some good kills and a semi-good cast -thanks to always welcome scream queen Danielle Harris, Robert Patrick (who has little more than a cameo, so don't get too excited), and James Duval (a 40-something playing a 20-something). But I couldn't really see anything here that would have me buying this one as a keeper, even though I wouldn't go as far as to say it was a horrendous bomb. It just clears my 'Mindless Movie Monday' radar....

As mentioned, the film starts out in 1927 Turkey, where archeologists have dug up an ancient tablet with Pan's likeness on it. That can never be a good sign, and as expected, this tablet turns up later - in the form of a crazy board game - for a group of friends to stumble upon. Nine pals are set up at an isolated house on an island in Maine, there to relive bad memories (because they can't just go there to have fun) and make wild accusations and claims against each other. All this is made so much easier once they have found said board game in the basement of the house... and the game takes on a life of its own.   This is when the shit hits the fan and the hearts start to break.

As each player moves their piece around the board they choose a card to read. These cards have the weirdest instructions on them which, without spoiling the film, I'll just say play out just like a truth or dare game.  At first, it seems like an enjoyable game, as may of the suggestions end up taking on a sexual meaning - and unusual couples start forming and taking their "dares" to the bedroom instead. The remaining friends start to nit-pick each other, until it turns considerably uglier. Jealousy, regret, and outright anger take over and that's when things finally start to amp up.

That said, when the inevitable gratuitous nudity and some chainsaw action does come, it just feels like same movie, different day. There really is nothing that differentiates it from any other "ancient evil unleashed on unsuspecting victims". Yes, there is some decent gore. And yes, Danielle Harris is old hat at these films and has no problem making this film her own. But it just fell flat for me.  Most of the acting was wooden, and though the crazy Pan character does conjure up some creepy images, and I would have liked to have seen more from him, but it was a lost concept, as it started to feel like a less-than-stellar X-Files episode when all the characters became "possessed" and got the black oil-type eyes so famous on the sci-fi/horror series.

The ending, when it finally (blissfully) came, left me feeling mostly cheated, as there is no compelling reason for everything that happened, no befitting ending for everything we'd just witnessed - so I can't even say I was happy it was over.

 I feel sure they were trying for a real throw-back style of horror film, and yet I shrug my shoulders and have to ask: why?  The original moments in the film (and I mean moments here, truly) are so few and far between. I can't understand why they didn't take those elements and try to make something truly distinctive, because for me - this one just kind of stunk up the place. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

TV Heats Up With Horror: Coming Attractions Autumn 2013

~ by Marie Robinson

I don’t know if it is just me, but it seems like there are a lot more horror series on at one time than ever before. Which is excellent for us! Here’s the scoop on some of the upcoming October television programs that are shot with a darker lens…

This immensely popular, critically acclaimed zombie-thriller series returns this October for its fourth season on AMC. Based on a graphic novel, The Walking Dead has received insane amounts of success, including multiple award nominations and even a possible spin-off. There will be two new cast members joining the ranks this season—Christian Serratos (Twilight Saga) will be playing Rosita Espinosa, and Larry Gilliard Jr. (The Wire) will be playing Bob Stookey.
In anticipation of the upcoming season AMC has released several clips and still from episodes to come, as well as some teasers, promo posters, and glances behind the scenes. You can find most of this stuff by heading to The Walking Dead’s page on AMC’s website, HERE.

And here's a sneak peak:

This October FX’s American Horror Story is returning for its third season. One of the things that sets AHS apart is that each season has it’s own individual storyline, and although a handful of the actors repeat (Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Lily Rabe), their characters change. The upcoming season is called Coven and focuses on a school for witches set in New Orleans.
American Horror Story is known for their innovative and breathtaking promotions, in teaser and poster form. You can watch all the spooky teasers and clips HERE at FX, and LTV has been kind enough to gather all of the posters as well as some on-set shots; check that out HERE.

And the teaser:

Two weeks ago FOX launched their brand new series Sleepy Hollow, starring Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison. The show finds Washington Irving’s classic tale set in the modern day, as Ichabod Crane (Mison) finds himself in the present to help save the world from its demise.

Off to a strong start, Sleepy Hollow airs Mondays at 8 p.m. Central.
 HERE  is the show’s official website where you can check out all the tidbits as she series progresses. If you are like me and have yet to begin watching, why not start with the promo below?

Lifetime’s new show, Witches of East End will premiere October 6th. The plot concerns a woman and her two daughters who are about to find out a nasty little trait they inherited from their elders—witchcraft! Based on a best-selling novel by Melissa de la Cruz, Witches of East End looks like an updated Charmed with a lot more sex appeal. I could get into it.
Check out photos and video clips at Lifetime’s website.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors) will star as Dracula in the new NBC series premiering October 25th. Other classic characters such as Mina and Van Helsing will also be on the show, which takes place in late 1800’s London, where the Count has come to exact revenge on those who made his life a living hell all those many years ago.

NBC’s website only has a few photos, but Bloody Disgusting posted an article with character sheets, a poster, and a promo. Check it out HERE.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Night Fulci: DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING (1972) : Don't Let The Title Fool You!

The victim of a rather lame excuse for a title, Don't Torture A Duckling (Non si sevizia un paperino) is a far cry from director Lucio Fulci's zombie-gore movies he is so very famous for in horror circles.  An on-point giallo film from 1972, it is considered to be one of the director's best, but one can experience where Fulci's love affair with gruesome effects started by watching this mystery/thriller.

Someone is killing young boys in the small Italian hamlet of Accendura and it seems there are several suspects as the film begins.  Local peeping tom Giuseppe (Vito Passeri) has a habit of watching couples copulating and when he is caught doing so by three mischievous lads (who themselves are overly interested in naked women, natch), he warns them he will kill them.

Not to be taken too seriously, Giuseppe is more or less the village idiot, so he is an easy target when the police find him hovering over a shoddy, haphazardly-dug grave that ends up being one of the boys.  Giuseppe professes his innocence, claiming that he found the boy dead already and only buried him so that he could try to get ransom money from the child's parents.

As these events unfold, we have also been introduced to a mysterious gypsy woman (Florinda Bolkan) who is first seen digging up the bones of a small child and making off with them, and then crafting three crude dolls out of clay and performing some kind of voodoo ritual on them.  It's obvious, after she catches the three boys spying on her at the child's grave, that she's more than a little pissed at them - and has the means to take her revenge.

Meanwhile, one of the boys, Michele, is asked by his mother to deliver a tray of juice to her employer - a beautiful woman named Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet) who is hiding out in the tiny town due to a drug scandal. She just happens to be sunbathing in the nude when Michele comes in and soon she gets all creepy with the twelve year old, spilling juice down her breasts and offering herself to him sexually. (Can you say pedophile??). Michele, in case you were wondering, doesn't get a chance to act on the invitation because his mother calls him away. (Damn her anyhow!)

After the death of the first boy, reporters and detectives assemble in the town in an attempt to discover the murderer. One of the reporters, Martelli (Tomas Milian), takes a shine to Patrizia (and who wouldn't?- she's gorgeous!) and is baffled when he finds several clues that seem to point to her as the murderer.  The police, after another murder occurs even though they are holding Giuseppe in custody, realize they may have arrested the wrong person and begin to concentrate on the gypsy woman. Soon, evidence leads them to Patrizia as well, who is confused by the interrogation.  She and Martelli team up to find the true identity of the killer, before it's too late.

Don't Torture A Duckling wasn't my first Fulci film by far. I'd already flew through most of his gorier works like The New York Ripper, House by the Cemetery, Zombi 2, and The Beyond.  Honestly I had no idea this film was considered a giallo, either, until I actually took a peek at it about ten or twelve years ago. As previously mentioned, it was touted as one of Fulci's best works, and it is probably his most critically acclaimed film as well.  Regarding the gore, there is a reasonable amount. It's that hokey, inferior gore that isn't that great but we love it anyway, don't we?  Give me second-rate gore over today's laughable CGI any day! There is a scene near the end, one that I vividly recall from former viewings that, while ludicrous and really fake-looking, really screams FULCI!  You'll know it when you see it.

DTAD is a vivid piece of film making, it really is.  While I would never say the style is up to say, Argento's beautiful expression and impassioned approach, it holds its own with above-par cinematography and a gritty tone that helps it to stand apart from some of his other, less-appealing works.  The story, while simple, is fashioned with a social commentary regarding how misfits are treated and how small towns still look at outsiders with resentment that often turns to anger and in turn, violence.Sadly, that kind of thing doesn't seem to have changed, no matter what country, no matter what decade.

If you're wondering where the ridiculous title comes from, it's one of those titles that loses a lot in translation. In Italian, Non si sevizia un paperino translates to "Don't Torture Donald Duck", which seems quite comical but really does have meaning within the film. If you watch all the way through, you will get it. But the title has done nothing to make any of Fulci's fans want to entertain the idea of watching it. So it's here that I say: don't let the goofy title dissuade you from taking a chance on this great giallo film. It really is some of Fulci's best work.

(This review originally posted at Dr. Terror's Blog of Horrors as part of his Italian Horror Week this year. If you are a fan of Italian horror - get your fix right here.  Lots of superb work!)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) : Where On Earth Have You Been, Girl?

~review by Marie Robinson

Have you ever wanted someone so bad you’d kill for them? Well, shit I hope not! That’s kind of fucked up. Unless, of course, it was Mandy Lane.
Amber Heard plays the irresistible title character in the anticipated film, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.

The film was finished back in 2006 but couldn’t be released until now because the Weinstein Company went out of business; however they re-acquired the rights this year and is now available on Video On-Demand with an small theatrical release in October.

When school lets back in for the fall everyone can’t help but notice how smokin’ little miss Mandy Lane got. Now every boy is out for her attention, much to the annoyance of her best friend, Emmet (Michael Welch, The Twilight Saga). After Emmet coaxes a drunken, lust-fueled boy to attempt a deadly feat for Mandy Lane’s attention, he is kicked to the curb for the popular kids.

Mandy Lane’s new group of friends think they are going to have the time of their life and land the girl of their dreams when they invite her out to a private ranch house, but things don’t go as expected when the teens start dropping like flies. But who is the killer that is dealing out all the carnage for Mandy Lane?

As much as it might seem like it at the start, this is not your regular sex-and-booze fest slasher. It’s much more than that. Although this is only writer Jacob Forman’s first screenplay (his next, The Well, is currently in post-production), it is only one more on pretty decent list from director Jonathan Levine. Well, technically this was his first! After finishing All the Boys Love Mandy Lane in 2006 he went on to direct some very well-received films such as 50/50 and Warm Bodies.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane has impeccable pacing and characterization. The teen-banter dialogue is realistic and entertaining—not in a Diablo Cody kind of way. You get to know these characters, more than you probably care to (they’re scumbags), except for the mysterious Mandy Lane.

 Mystery is certainly part of her allure but it is also her purity. She doesn’t do drugs, doesn’t drink to excess—she’s “untouched”. And she plans to stay that way. It’s enough to drive a man mad…

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is a clever film and it hits you like a cool, refreshing wave in a blood-red sea of slashers. It’s only a shame we had to wait so long; but some things—like Mandy Lane—are worth waiting for…

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Insidious: Chapter 2 : In Which We Delve Further Into The Further...

~review by Marie Robinson

You have no idea how excited for this film; my most anticipated release of this year, seconds only to Evil Dead. Going with such high expectations can be deadly, but The Conjuring instilled me with unwavering confidence. I’m happy to say that I, personally, was not disappointed.

I re-watched the first Insidious days before I screened Insidious: Chapter 2 and I advise you to do the same; this is because the sequel references small, specific details and picks up almost immediately where the first film left off.

Before we can do that though, we must first travel back in time to Josh’s (Patrick Wilson) afflicted childhood. When she discovers her son is being plagued by a malevolent apparition, Josh’s young mother Lorraine (played by Jocelin Donahue from one of my favorite films, House of the Devil) calls in psychic Elise (younger version played by Lindsay Seim). It’s here in the opening scene that we are introduced to a new character, a mutual friend of Elise and Lorraine and another psychic, Carl. Once Elise sees the severity of Josh’s haunting, she decides that she must immediately erase Josh’s memory of his ability to astral project.

We go on to the present—where you do get a bit of a recap, if you don’t decide to re-watch the first film—where things with the Lambert family are far from peaceful. There is an ongoing police investigation on the murder of Elise, and the main suspect is Josh.  Renai (Rose Byrne), Josh, and the kids are staying at Lorraine’s (older version played by Barbara Hershey, Black Swan, The Entity) where the supernatural activity continues even though Dalton and Josh have returned to the realm of the living.

Renai has plenty of reasons to be afraid; her husband is different. He’s tense and cold, and no matter how many strange things happen he insists that nothing is wrong and that all of them need to move on. However, the Josh Renai doesn’t see is muttering to himself, arguing with unseen entities, plotting…

But what’s worse is that something is still after her children. Renai calls on the help of Elise’s team of paranormal investigators from the previous film, Specs (Leigh Whannell, Saw) and Tucker (Angus Sampson, Darkness Falls), Carl (Steve Coulter), and perhaps, a bit of help from the other side…

James Wan claims he is now finished with horror movies, to which I say WHY?!?! The savior of box office horror called The Conjuring his “swan song” in an interview with Bloody Disgusting’s Evan Dickson, and he may just be right about that.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed Insidious: Chapter 2, it did have its flaws. They tried to do a lot with the sequel; a non-linear plot, overlapping story lines and a hefty load of protagonists. Admittedly, it can feel a bit jumbled and be hard to follow. However, the only real concern I had with the film was too many jump-scares. Wan is well versed in the macabre and he truly knows how to frighten people. He does it effectively by showing you the horror, building the suspense and then dragging that moment out. It was instances like these that made The Conjuring so bloody terrifying. Sure, we get some really great examples of that in Insidious: Chapter 2, but I was really just kind of miffed at the amount of cheap scares that were dealt out. All I’m saying is if I’m going to piss myself in public, it better be worth it.

Insidious: Chapter 2 reeks of atmosphere. The sets are gorgeous and each scene is dripping with the signature cinematography James Wan gives in his Insidious films and also in Dead Silence. You know what I’m talking about; a keen eye for detail—especially in architecture—and brooding shadows with delicious bursts of color. Costume and make-up are gloriously gaudy and Joseph Bishara returns for a gorgeous score.

It’s hard to pick a favorite aspect of the film for me, but off the top of my head I would have to go with Patrick Wilson’s performance as Josh Lambert. For some reason, I really hated Wilson in the first Insidious. I thought he was dopey and I even poked fun at him in an article I did on astral projecting; but the fella has really grown on me. I think it was The Conjuring that changed my mind, and after his performance in Insidious: Chapter 2.
 As tension grows in the Lambert household, Josh is becoming more and more peculiar. Introverted, aggressive… he takes on a Jack Torrence-like persona. I have no doubt that Wilson referenced Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Shining to get into his character—there’s even a scene where he is beating down a door in a rage while his wife and child cower on the other side! I was thoroughly impressed by Wilson and I hope he continues to pursue roles in horror in the future.

Insidious: Chapter 2 may have its flaws, but it is still a fucking masterpiece compared to most of the crap that is mainstream horror. I’m only disappointed that it will be the so-called last fright flick by the incredible Mr. Wan…

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Play It Again, Sam: The Ear Worms Of Horror!!

Music plays such an important part of horror, be it a sweeping score or a well chosen list of songs. But sometimes, a song plays a pivotal role in a film - and I don't mean movie themes like Jaws, The Exorcist, or Psycho. Everyone knows the recurring theme from a film can be incredibly memorable and set the tone for a film. I'm talking about a specific tune, something that is played in a film that isn't just background music. In other words, a catchy tune that has special meaning and is prominent. 

Here are some of my favorite (even though they stick in my head!) tunes from horror...
Check them out and let me know what song I may have missed that drives YOU crazy!!

The Conjuring - In this relatively new release, a music box possibly contains a ghost - or at least allows you to see one, if you look in the attached mirror while this little tune plays.  Keep watching, and the ghost will appear behind you. Eerie!

Skeleton Key - What's that Hoodoo that you do?? In this bayou creep-fest, Kate Hudson finds a ritualistic album in the attic of an old plantation house with the title "The Conjure of Sacrifice".  Should she have played the record?  I think we all know the answer to that question...

Angel Heart - In one of my favorite films, another voodoo curse has detective Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) running from the streets of Harlem to the sultry parishes of New Orleans to track down a lost crooner who (we find out soon enough) made a deal with the devil. This song is prominent throughout the entire movie, and it sticks in your head long after the last disturbing reel.

Profondo Rosso: Now here's one that will get inside your head and never let go.  The music box tune that plays in this film is so terribly annoying and yet an integral part of the mystery, as it is the murderer's calling card. 

Insidious:  This one comes with a little bonus in the embedded video.  ''Tip toe thru the tulips" was a creepy song well before Insidious used it as the "demon/ghost song of choice".  That Tiny Tim character may have had a wonderful heart, but that song was just bizarre, as was his voice.  In this particular scene, it is a crazy yet perfect choice for the moment of fear we're exposed to; and it is used later in the film as well.

The Changeling: This little music box theme is used throughout the entire film.  When George C. Scott's character finds an old music box covered with cobwebs in the dark attic of a house he is renting, imagine his surprise when he opens it and it plays a tune that he himself has been writing as part of an orchestration. Um, color me scared!  Seriously one of the best ghost story films out there.

Halloween III:  (Silver Shamrock) : This seizure-inducing video/piece of music is an ear-worm of the highest degree and I guarantee you'll be singing it in the shower, at work, while eating dinner, and when you crawl into bed tonight! Sorry!  But the real question is: do you have your mask?  It's almost time!

Jeepers Creepers: The use of this song extends itself to the title, no less.  It's heard several times in the film, even as a remake of it on a rock station in the car that Darry and Trish are driving while trying to escape the wrath of a people-eating monster who himself ends up listening to the song by the film's end. 

The Lords of Salem: The "theme" heard here is the song played on the radio station where Sheri Moon Zombie works in Salem, Mass. and is by a band known only as The Lords of Salem. But when the women of Salem hear the droning tune, they go into a trance due to a curse put on the female residents by a seventeenth century coven of witches.  So listen at your own risk...

Carnival of Souls: The organ is used throughout this movie and sets as creepy a tone as you will ever hear. When our heroine Mary gets a job as a church organist, she eventually finds herself drumming out a ridiculously macabre tune while her mind wanders and she sees the ghoulish man who has been chasing her. All the music in this film evokes an unsettling feeling of despair and death.

American Horror Story: Dominique: Oh here's a good one.  Stop me if you've heard this one. No, seriously. Stop. Me.
This one has to win the prize for most annoyingly good song you love to hate!  I can't get it out of my head, and it's been months since American Horror Story ended. It will forever remind me of that damn asylum. But I love it.

Friday the 13th (Sail away tiny sparrow): If you're wondering where this song is in the film, the version with lyrics is playing in the diner where Steve and Sandy are having their little chat. But if you listen again closely, the song playing at the end of the movie when Jason jumps out of the water...same tune. 

The Shining:  Midnight the Stars and You:  An effective song used several times in the film, it's a rather haunting song when used in this context.  In particular, over the end credits.  It's also played in the ballroom when Jack starts drinking again, and in the climax of the movie when the ballroom comes to life.  (Side note: it's also used in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, as Leslie prepares himself for the slaughter! Love that homage.)

The Birds:  Another really REALLY annoying song, "Risseldy, Rosseldy" is the tune the kids in the school house are singing (OVER AND OVER) while the birds congregate on the monkey bars in the playground. One of the most frightening moments in the movie and that tune is nearly as scary.  It never leaves your head after you hear it! That's why I saved it for last!!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Lords Of Salem (2013): Satan Is Renting Apartment 5

Well, that was different.

First off, let me get the whole Rob Zombie thing out of the way right now.  I like Rob Zombie. I have no problem whatsoever with him.  In fact, I may even love him.  Some of this stems from the fact that I respect him for being a major fan-boy of horror.  If you doubt this fact, you only need check out this video from several years ago from MTV's Cribs (which is a little shaky because I had to link the UK version since I could not find the US clip on MTV since they are too busy plugging Miley Cyrus's latest teddy bear adventure or what have you) in which Zombie gives a little tour of his own home, rife with all kinds of horror memorabilia, and I can guarantee he has more than you. The man is a true fan, and so I admire his adoration for the genre we share a love of.

 That said, I'm not saying he's David Cronenberg or even John Carpenter. But I think his films can certainly be characterized as being passionately crafted, whether or not they win the esteem of his peers or the admiration of horror fans the world over.  They bring a specialized vision: sometimes of gritty, white-trash violence; other times of gory, music-video-type storytelling with a grind-house style like no other director I've seen. Sometimes, it's a combination of both.  And I'm so damn tired of horror fans knocking his dick in the dirt. The majority of people that blast his talent or say he's a hack couldn't find their way out of a paper bag, let alone direct a film.  I'm sick of so-called horror purists and their condescending banter. Blah blah blah whatever.

In The Lords of Salem, you can still find the Rob Zombie you were looking for, but this film is something completely outside the (Zombie) box. It seems he combined a little David Lynch, a touch of Robin Hardy, and a generous helping of Dario Argento, along with elements of his own bizarre sense of style and groove. It's a trippy experience, one my husband could barely tolerate. I doubt he will ever watch the film again, and was all but swearing by the time it ended (this is after he fell asleep in the middle). And yes, it's trippier than Zombie's first effort: House of 1000 Corpses, which the hubby loves.

Before I go further, a few words about Salem.  The town, I mean.  Back in 1997, the hubby and I traveled to this picturesque town thirty miles north of Boston on vacation.  It is my most favorite city in America and I would love to live there. Being an incredible history buff as well as a fan of all things spooky, I couldn't wait to get there and see it.  And it does not disappoint.  We went in October, probably the best month to go if you're looking for all the pomp and circumstance of the witch history.  But Salem has a lot to offer, not just its (horrific) historical back story.  When you are there it is really hard to imagine something so awful actually happened there. With its brick lined walkways, beautiful old-growth trees, pristine homes that once belonged to sea captains and early American government leaders, and an alluring waterfront which was a busy seaport for hundreds of years.

But something bad DID happen there. As we all know, in 1692 twenty people were convicted of witchcraft and put to death. 140 people were accused of the crime and an additional dozen or so (besides the known 20) probably died in prison. When you visit Salem, you can go to all the kitschy tourist traps - but I recommend checking out the more valid historical sites while there. On that note, I'd love to tell you about the strange thing that happened to me in the Jonathan Corwin house (known simply as The Witch House because Corwin was a judge and conducted trials in the home), but we really must get to the review here.....

After all that digressing, I find it hard to actually put into words the experience that is The Lords of Salem. If you're looking for the gore-fest you usually get from Zombie, be prepared to be disappointed in that respect. The overall themes of the film are really not conducive to a whole lot of blood, in fact it would be poorly placed if it was added just for the sake of gore. There is some blood here and there, but to be honest I didn't miss it at all.

The first scenes of the film leave no doubt that we are dealing with witchcraft here. It's 1696 and a coven of witches is getting naked and getting in touch with their inner demon while the local reverend, Jonathan Hawthorne, details his plans to put an end to the evil in Salem.

In the present day, Sheri Moon Zombie stars as Heidi "LaRock" Hawthorne, part of a trio of disc jockeys - the other two being Whitey (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Herman (Ken Foree) - at a rock station in Salem, Massachusetts. She is leaving her apartment for work and notices a new tenant in apartment 5, who promptly ignores Heidi's greeting and slams the door. When she confronts her landlord, Lacy (Judy Geeson), to inquire about the new boarder, she adamantly denies that anyone has moved in.

We quickly learn Heidi is a recovering drug addict, as we see her at a NA meeting before work.  When she receives an unusual wooden box addressed to her at work that has a vinyl record in it simply entitled The Lords, she and co-worker/lover Whitey take it home and play it at her apartment. The bizarre tune seemingly puts Heidi into a trance in which she has visions of the coven of witches killing a newborn child. She is snapped out of the daze when Whitey turns off the music. Naturally, it's easy to see why Whitey and later Herman think Heidi may be relapsing into drug use, with her getting all hinky with a tune on the record player. If only.

The next day, the trio of DJ's are interviewing an author, Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison), who has written a book about the Salem witch trials. At the end of the interview, they decide to play the Lords record as part of their "smash or trash" segment. As the records plays, all the women of Salem who are tuned in to the station go into the same trance that Heidi experienced.

At home later, Matthias is disturbed by the record - both the chanting tune and the mysterious band, The Lords of Salem.  He finds some music written in a book he recalled and has his wife play the small refrain of notes written down. It is the same tune as the Lords' record. He sets about to get to the bottom of the mystery, and soon discovers Heidi's family tree extends all the way back to the witch trials.

Heidi begins to experience weird visions and after a tea party at Lacy's apartment with her and her two even stranger sisters (Patricia Quinn and Dee Wallace), Heidi is drawn to the mysterious apartment 5.  What she finds inside said apartment is beyond the realms of this earth, and the landlord and her sisters are the catalyst for the evil that is spreading across Salem.  Their hope is to deliver the descendant of Jonathan Hawthorne to the devil himself in order to fulfill a long-ago curse the seventeenth century witches placed on the family and the women of Salem.

I can't properly describe this film. Words escape me. While I'm not going to say it's amazing, there is no denying that the imagery in The Lords of Salem is a sight to behold, it is both beautiful and disturbing. Zombie has created, at least in my opinion, one of the most atmospheric horror films to come along in quite some time.  It's so moody, so dark and dismal at times, that it's not enough to say it's upsetting.
I found myself, after watching it, lying in bed trying to get to sleep and all I could think about were the visuals in the film, and I could only hear that bizarre ear-worm of a tune ringing in my ears.

As per usual, the film has a lot of elements that seem pulled from one of Zombie's psychedelic-style music videos. But this time, it's much less like House of 1000 Corpses and much more akin with a Dario Argento film. The use of color and style are nearly flawless here, even though it does veer off in the last ten minutes or so into rock-opera style that though mesmerizing did kind of fall off a bit for me.  But it didn't stop me from being utterly enamored with the whole thing. Like I said, it really crossed over into an Italian horror theme for me, with the style-over-substance approach so familiar from directors like Argento and Bava.

I won't say Sheri Moon Zombie is a revelation. I won't even say her acting's gotten any better than her last film. What I will say is that she does a decent job, with her brooding yet smoldering good looks and her always-present depressing funk she does so well. The three present-day witches are quite fun - just when you think their characters are a little too quirky, they turn up the evil and make you recognize. Meg Foster does an excellent job as the seventeenth century crone in charge of the coven, prancing around naked while chanting about her love of Satan.  Great stuff.  And Davison's Matthias comes off as probably the most realistic character in the film. In all, the acting is really quite secondary to the cinematography and style of the movie. May I just say again how darkly beautiful it was.

The soundtrack, as in most of Zombie's films, is excellent. With a great score by John 5 and several well-placed tunes by bands like Rush, Manfred Mann and Velvet Underground (from them comes two of the signature songs - and they are perfect), it's another fine example of Zombie's song-choosing prowess.  Even Mozart's Requiem makes a rather appropriate appearance. Who'd have thought it? Mozart in a Rob Zombie film?

I remember when I saw Zombie's Halloween II.  I wrote a scathing review of an unnecessary film that was one step away from unhinged trailer trash silliness.  I wondered if he could make another decent horror film. Now I can safely say yes, he can.  In fact, this may be a defining work for him. After all, there were very few elements that he always stuffs into his films - over-the-top gore and excessive foul language was missing,  irredeemable characters were at a minimum, and let's not forget this is an original work - always good in my book.

The Lords of Salem is a strange, dark film with a very ominous theme and disquieting symbolism. Zombie has made a memorable piece that will stick in the viewer's head, hesitant to allow your mind to clear. And any time a film can make me feel that way, I have no choice but to recommend it - and to give it another watch myself.  It won't be long until I do.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Oh The Horror! DVD Recap: August 2013

   ~by Marie Robinson

Since there was a pretty hefty load of horror DVDs to hit the shelf last month, and quite a few I wanted to check out, I took it upon myself to watch as many as I could and give you the scoop on ‘em. Here are my brief thoughts on the DVD releases of August…


This quiet film takes place in director Sebastian Silva’s homeland of Chile where teenage girl Alicia is visiting her American cousin abroad. What was supposed to be a holiday for the naïve girl turns out to be a living nightmare where she must question if everything is real or horrifying illusion. With splendid performances by all, this film stars Michael Cera, Juno Temple and Emily Browning. This is a psychological thriller that was to me impressive and unique; it really puts you in the unraveling mind of the victim. You might even begin to feel reality slip away… You can view a full review I wrote on Magic Magic here!


For as long as celebrities have been around, people have been fascinated by them, and easily obsessed. People will do strange things to feel connected with them; Brandon Cronenberg’s film considers this infatuation, and imagines the lengths that fans will go to to feel intimacy with their idols. Even though the fact that this is the debut film of legendary director David Cronenberg’s son is reason alone to see this film, it helps immensely that it is interesting, beautiful, poignant and well acted by lead Caleb Landry Jones.


Everyone has heard of The Amityville Horror—a book/movie that was inspired by the actual slaughter of the DeFeo family in their home in New York. The Amityville Horror is also supposedly based on facts; the family who moved in after the murders (the Lutzs’) claimed to experience sinister supernatural activity. This documentary by Eric Walter goes in depth with Daniel Lutz, who was just a child at the time of the alleged haunting. While extremely fascinating for those interested in the hauntings, it is also a portrait of a disturbed individual who suffered from an abusive stepfather. Even if you don’t believe in demons and ghosts you can still enjoy this quality-made documentary—which is Eric Walter’s debut! Check out Christine’s full review on My Amityville Horror here!


The second film on this list to have a Chilean director and take place there! Eli Roth lends his pen and his acting talents to Nicolas Lopez’s disaster film, Aftershock. A group of tourists don’t exactly get the good time abroad they are looking for when an earthquake hits and then the whole city goes to mayhem. There’s much for our protagonists to be worried about in this film but none of that really makes us worried about them—they’re all douche bags! This could have been a cool flick if it didn’t think with its dick.


Bayou butcher Victor Crowley is back for the third installment of the Hatchet slasher films. Also returning is heroine Marybeth (Danielle Harris) and writer Adam Green, who was penned all three films and directed the first two. Directing for the first time is BJ McDonnell who until now has spent all his time right behind the lens. While the film has it’s moments both fun and gore-ific, the storyline and characters seem to be a bit tired out. Sometimes immortality can be a curse…


From the director of the Midnight Meat Train comes No One Lives, a torture flick with a twist! A murderous group kidnaps a couple on the highway, thinking it will be a fun, easy kill. What they don’t expect is that they’re dealing with a villain of their own—which means they’re fucked. Ryuhei Kitamura seems to know how to make a jolly good slasher flick, with substance to boot! I enjoyed No One Lives; it brings something a little different to the formulaic plot of torture films.


This comedy by Paul Middleditch makes a mockery of the Rapture foretold in the Bible, following a young couple and their families as they struggle to survive and adapt to Hell on Earth. With a pretty solid cast (Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, John Francis Daley to name a few) you’d think it’d be a fun flick—at least I did. However, almost all of the jokes fall flat—it seems like the writers were trying to hard to fit a
punch line into every line of dialogue instead of coming up with quality material. Save yourself from eternal damnation and leave this one on the shelves.

Well, I hope this was somewhat helpful and informative for you guys! I had fun watching these films, even if I didn’t necessarily enjoy all of them. I like to make it a point to stay current with what is going on in the horror cinema world. I’m guessing you probably do too, since you are reading this…
The ones I didn’t get to were Do Not Disturb, 5 Souls, Jack the Reaper, Zombie Massacre, Evidence, American Ghost Story, Alyce Kills, Among Friends, A Resurrection, and Ritual. Let me know if you have seen any of these, and if you have any thoughts on them or the ones I talked about!

This was fun; we should do this again sometime. See you next month?