If ever there was a wrongly overlooked and disregarded wide release horror outfit from the 90s, The Faculty is most certainly it.
Robert Rodgriguez delivers a deliciously fun and surprisingly astute movie that plays like a riff on the creature features of yesteryear and the tiresome high school comedy genre.
No, The Faculty is not great cinema. But it doesn't try to be. It understands its strengths and plays to them well. The effects hold up surprisingly well, the script is efficient, and Rodriguez gets as good a crop of performances from his cast as you could ever realistically expect.
Also, while the movie pays tribute to a number of horror movies and chillers that have come before, The Thing rip-off is particularly fun.
A horrifically unique outburst of morbid and nightmarish creativity bestowed upon us by Clive Barker and his crew. With its exceptionally dark themes and imagery, by all rights Hellraiser should never have become the wide-reaching household horror film/franchise that it became. How did this ever happen? Well, because it's really just that good. And insanely original.
I've decided to make the Hellraiser movies my "series focus" for the month. How far I'll actually get is certainly still in question. But for now...
If there's one major problem with Hellbound: Hellraiser II, it's the fact that this sequel to the highly successful and nearly timeless original turned itself into a special effects picture, whereas the first one was primarily an organic effects/special makeup effects film. This is too bad. As a result Hellbound shows its age far more than the original film because it's all junked up with a bunch of lousy looking sequences. Oh well. At least the special effects makeup still looks good.
And we still receive the same competent to good acting from the cast. In both films Ashely Laurence really does prove herself to be a much better young heroine than your likely to see in most horror movies, 1980s or otherwise.
But then there are just too many developments, behaviors, plot unfoldings that simply make little to absolutely no sense. So more points lost there. Meh. That first film was always going to be a tough act to follow.
An incredibly fun and well executed horror/fantasy tale crafted to look and feel like something from the 1920 silent German Expressionist era. Visually the film is nearly a dead ringer for the films it celebrates. The camera-work, performances, musical score, set designs (Caligari, anyone?), and wear and stress to the film itself all add up to make this truly feel like the real deal and the movie has endless fascination power for these reasons alone.
But what makes all of this truly worthwhile and steers the film toward greatness is that the story it tells (an H.P. Lovecraft classic) is deeply compelling and worked my interest. The tone is genuinely creepy, one could even say scary. If I have one complaint it's that at a scant 47 minutes it's too bad it's not longer.
Fantastic and inventive camera work add to the scares and help make this chilling B&W thriller a nice little cinematic treat. The Hill House itself is a pretty memorable horror film locale, and the leading man (played by Richard Johnson) reminded me of Vincent Price just a bit- all things that lend the film a sort of natural classic status in my mind. Also the psychological horror plays in nicely and at times I thought of the leading lady (Julie Harris) as a poor man's Catherine Denueve from Repulsion. So this was interesting, as were some hints that the other lead character (an altogether better suited for the screen Claire Bloom) was in fact a lesbian. Pretty taboo at the time, I'm sure.
If there's a major complaint I have with the film it's that the Julie Harris wore on my nerves a bit as the film went on and I had trouble taking her psychic melt-down altogether seriously. Fortunately the screenplay is much more playful and engaging when we're not stuck inside her thoughts. And as I say, the entire rest of the film teems with technical and aesthetic professionalism.
This is actually a quite loveable film (well, for those who appreciate satire and black comedy) and not the sleaze-fest that the title would suggest. And truth be told it features one of the more memorable central characters in all of cinema. Now does all of this make A Bucket of Blood a masterpiece? Well, no, not quite. But it is solid entertainment and a film that has held up quite nicely I would say since over the decades since its release.
I met this film with a bit less fanfare than the first time around. Still, it remains an efficiently told and serviceable enough guilty pleasure, no matter how many country miles it remains from anything original. And hell, there are far worse "attractive young people in horror movie peril" performances out there.
It's been so long that this almost felt like my first time visiting Cronenberg's scifi-horror shocker, The Fly. I'd forgotten just how fun the ideas are in this film. And while I remember the crux of Jeff Goldblum's character and performance, I'd forgotten just how good Geena Davis is here. She strikes me as one of the smartest and most capable actresses to emerge in the 80s, even if she doesn't always jump to mind when considering the best actresses of the era.
The Fly is worthy of its status as a gruesome classic, despite its one or two setbacks. Probably the weakest element of the film arrives late in the game, revolving around the "baby conversations". (Oh, but that nightmare sequence is still horribly awesome.) Yep, it was high-time I revisited the film that first brought Cronenberg's sensibilities to a wider audience.
I confess that I entered Frankenweenie unsure if it would even be worth my bother. After all, 3 of his last 4 films have registered in me anything from indifference to boredom to downright disdain. So in a way, it's probably best that my all-day hangover interceded to the point that I really couldn't imagine doing anything except sitting in a dark room for 90 minutes.
Ultimately Frankenweenie doesn't rank with the best in Burton's repertoire, but it is a very enjoyable movie and presents a whole hell of a lot of visual splendor.
One of the first things I noted while watching Frankenweenie is that Burton has finally given us another film that feels personal to him. The first (and strongest) half of the movie felt like the Tim Burton of old. The one that captured movie-goers imagination all over the world. This is vital to the film, especially since by its finish we realize that a substantial amount of the movie relies on the imagery and content of other peoples' work. This could easily become an empty exercise in horror cross-referencing and cap-tipping, but there's enough of Burton's own sensibility and signature touches to make everything seem at least somewhat relevant.
Also worth noting is how good the voice-acting is across the board. Nearly every character comes to life in a meaningful way which in large part is owed to the talents behind the animation. Similarly, composer Danny Elfman comes through with what is definitely among his strongest collaborations with the Director. Sound plays a large role in this film's successes.
What holds the film back from becoming something truly special has mostly to do with the final third of the film. Oh yes, the action sequences can be fun, and horror movie references abound. But in the grand scheme of things, too much of the noise and spectacle feels slightly ordinary. Additionally, I kept waiting for a certain character to reappear somewhere in the proceedings and, alas, it was not to be. Instead we get an ending that might make some happy, but offered little in the way of satisfaction in regards to what Burton means to say about the townspeople and the transformations in attitude and behavior that they undergo.
Toss Critters, Night of the Creeps, The Blob and From Beyond into a blender with an extra serving of gross-out horror and you've pretty much got Slither. The script is punctuated by enough humor to make it all go down easily enough, but I don't think I'd line up for seconds.
Not a horror movie exactly, but it's certainly still in keeping with the spirit. Seeing as how well I enjoyed Geena Davis yesterday in The Fly and after catching and actually liking Burton's Frankenweenie earlier this afternoon, I figured it was the perfect time for a Beetlejuice re-watch.
I'd forgotten how darn enjoyable this movie is. The cast is really quite excellent from top to bottom, meaning that no matter who is on screen, there's almost always something to take delight in. The combination of stop-motion, computer generated, and organic effects remain fresh feeling and impressive despite their age, largely because of Burton's unique imagination and creative sensibilities, but also, perhaps counter-intuitively, in part due to the relatively small budget that the film was granted.
The biggest problem with Beetlejuice concerns some sorta messy story-telling and at times foggy character-writing/psychology/motivation. So it's not a perfect film. Happily though, the movies final moments (set to "Shake, Shake Senora") are so loveable that the film wraps up in a way that practically makes me feel that it has never done wrong. Beetlejuice reminds me why I fell in love with Burton's unique imagination and wit in the first place all those years ago.
The Last Man on Earth is not a great film, but it's also not without its moments. Fans of classic (and grim) sci-fi horror should enjoy it, as I imagine will Vincent Price fans, though it should be said that this is not his best film, nor his most interesting role.
The Last Man on Earth opens like a cross between a Twilight Zone episode and 28 Days Later. The world is desolate and abandoned, the entirety of humanity, it would seem, wiped out by an airborne plague that has swept the face of the earth. Vincent Price is the only survivor and he is left to contend with a bunch of zombified vampires that make up the only remaining populace.
We see his day to day activities and how he contends with these all but mindless stalkers of the night. We learn that he has been forced to deal with this vampire problem and the vast loneliness that accompanies it for 3 years. There is ample (and sometimes clunky) narration by Price's character to accompany all this, or else we'd essentially have a silent picture for the first 15-20 minutes or so. Once the stage has been set, we flashback to the way things once were, the family life that once surrounded him, and the early days of the much feared and ever growing epidemic. The earliest scenes that finally bring other characters into the film suggest that comparisons to The Twilight Zone are actually a bit insulting... to the television show, that is. Oh yes, there is plenty of cheese and laughable acting to be had. And little in the way of direction to help revitalize my interest which was beginning to wane considerably by this point.
As the plague takes a stronger and stronger hold, things thankfully get a bit more interesting. Finally, at 50-some minutes into the film we reach what is easily the most compelling scene thus far (pictured above)... only to have it torn away from us before it's allowed to run its course. This is the moment that we leave memory and return to the present. It's frustrating.
Happily enough, the film finally begins to pave some truly interesting ground from there on out. The last 25 minutes of the movie really do go a long way in making up for a first hour or so riddled with mediocrity. But getting to this point did get to be quite tiresome at times and a handful of strong scenes in the film's final third simply aren't enough to get me singing this film's praises.
Like I say, The Last Man on Earth is far from a total loss, but you shouldn't have too much trouble finding better films from the era or genre in question.
Thought I'd let this one rattle around in my subconscious for a bit before tackling it. But for one reason or another it doesn't seem to have made as much noise in there as I might've guessed. For me then, Begotten is mostly about the film-watching experience itself. And in some ways, (and I don't mean to suggest only good ways) this is a film-viewing experience quite unlike any other.
Begotten is a very dark and highly experimental film without dialogue. The soundtrack is made up of the constant (and I mean constant) sound of crickets chirping and various rhythms of a human heartbeat. There are some other sounds of course, but little to no detectable music. As for visual style, I'll refer you to Wikipedia:
It was shot on black and white reversal film, and then every frame was rephotographed for the high-contrast look that it presents. The look is described in the trailer as "a Rorschach test for the eye". Merhige said that for each minute of original film, it took up to 10 hours to rephotograph it for the look desired.
If all this sounds pretty weird, well I haven't even touched on the "narrative" of the film. Essentially Begotten presents us with a fucked up creation story of sorts and in a fairly sadistic ways presents "the plight of mankind". Or something like that. The film opens with images of "God" disemboweling his self with a straight-razor. What happens from there is just too much fun to spoil. Also worth mentioning, though I don't place a terrible amount of importance in the fact, is that the director, E. Elias Merhige (Shadow of the Vampire) set to work on the film shortly after a near-death experience. Make of this what you will.
So yes if Begotten sounds pretty bizarre, well it is. Maybe it's for you, maybe it's not.
But I must say that I was pretty strongly engrossed by the whole thing and the movie captured my imagination and attention in a strange way. I did feel my attention begin to waver, but only on two occasions- brief occurrences in the last third of the film. No it didn't change my life, but I was pleased enough with my 78 minutes spent.
The highly impressive set-pieces and location shooting simply can't pardon the fact that so much of the dialogue and story itself is dumb and clunky, featuring an entire second hour that's simply a chore to get through- no matter how striking some of the scary-movie imagery might be.
Though it happens more often with horror-comedies than straight horror, it's still nice to see a horror flick that likes its characters.
This is one of the more under-appreciated movies of its kind to come out of the 80s. Hell knows it took me long enough to get around to- so thanks to the giraffe for his persistent recommendation! (Catch his thoughts on the film here, along with the rest of his Horrorfest 2012 activities!) And while House might get almost too silly during bits toward the end, it's nonetheless a wholly entertaining and worthwhile watch.
See how stupid those cenobites look? Well it's no more or less stupid than the movie as a whole. Camerahead? CD! His fucking name is CD and he throws compact discs at you?! Are you goddamn serious? Just where did they even come from? How come Pinhead just gets to create generic minion-cenobites at will? Since when? I mean shit, the best part of that douche-bag club owner dying was that it meant he was out of the fucking movie. Oh, but nope, just kidding. Let me introduce you to Pistonhead. (not pictured above)
What a goddamn mess. Could've called it Hellraiser III: Hell on Celluloid.
I liked Insidious quite a lot when I saw it for the first time back during its theatrical run. But I remember having some problems with its final act and feeling like the film got a bit messy and cheesy, betraying the hard work that it had laid out for itself up until then. But this time...
This time around I found a better appreciation for the way things unfold. And while I focused before on the nice ways Insidious pays homage to previous horror films, this viewing allowed me to enjoy those aspects but also respect the movie much more for its sense of fun and creativity, and for its courage to, yes, ultimately be itself in many ways.
The set up is still as strong as ever- the combination of a highly believable and likeable husband/wife duo, a script that can be similarly described, and a precise and focused approach in directing all set the groundwork out nicely. There's the added bonus of a musical score that just plain kills, whether it's barely nudging the decibel meter needle or sending it into maximum volume convulsions.
Another thing that benefits Insidious is that it knows when it's going into horror-cliche land, and so consequently it takes the best route possible- poke a little fun at it all now and then and, just when we feel like we're all in on the joke together, hit us over the head with a balls-out, ass-kicker of a (check any and all that apply) "psychic reading/exorcism/communicate with the other side/standard horror-scene". Yes we've seen it before. Yes, we hoped the film would somehow steer its way around it. But, really, what choice was there? At least the makers of Insidious mustered up the know-how to do it right.
A lot of what follows (which I won't reveal here) is what tripped me up during my first go at the film. But this time things just worked and fell into place together within the film's own sense of logic. And it's really inside these last 20 or so minutes that Insidious swells into its own identity. The ground is a bit shaky, but the underlying sense of inventiveness --a sort of carve-your-own-trail-ness-- really won me over here.
I'm not just yet ready to say that Insidious is quite in league with The Others or The Ring in terms of contemporary wide-release supernatural chillers, but it is definitely one of the bright spots in 21st century horror.
The more I think about the over-hyped Sinister, the more I realize that there's very little left from my viewing experience to hold onto, much less spark my imagination. This is not to say that Sinister is a bad film (and hell, by today's wide-release horror standards I can almost begin to see what all the fuss behind the film is about), only that it never really ventures into anything truly thoughtful or of any import. What we have here is a movie that is executed with a reasonable amount of competence and professionalism, but one that entirely to limited in it's script and scope to ever achieve much of anything, save for a few scares and vague sense of creepiness.
Many are calling Sinister the most frightening film to come along in a good long while. I'm not about to share in the sentiment. Oh sure, there are some scary moments. There's a good bit of yucky, snuff-film griminess going on. And there are a handful of things that are likely to give you a start. But I just didn't find the film frightening the way others have reported and the way I'd hoped.
None of the performances here can be called bad, but we've seen these characters before, and often in superior horror films. The film's visual style doesn't make much of an impression, though I'll say that I personally liked the moody, seemingly Nine Inch Nails-inspired musical score quite a bit.
Trashy camp and sleaze that endeared itself to my demented little brain.
Tobe Hooper's follow up to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is better than it generally gets credit for, especially if you let your expectations of what a TCM follow ought to be relax a little. Even so, there are plenty of indications that the same director is in the chair, in terms of sound, camera-work, and editing.
On the other hand, if one was to argue that the movie is just B-level trash, I wouldn't bother mustering up much of an argument. Matter of personal taste on this one.
This is one of the more underrated horror-comedies to come along in a while. I think that what many fans of the original film haven't realized is that the Child's Play franchise gave up on being scary or being straight-horror movies with the previous installment, Bride of Chucky. (Ditching the "Child's Play" title is the first indication that the series is attempting to reinvent itself.)
The movie moves along quickly and is punctuated by enough decent jokes and bratty horror scenes to make it a fairly worthwhile viewing experience.
Quite a lot of fun to be had with this movie that brings Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Wolf Man all together in 90 minutes or so. (Not so special now, are ya Avengers?) But truly the strength of the film is not in it's horror elements (i think a few set-designs and instances of musical score are the strongest aspects here) so much as in its comedic script and comedic performances.
The Bela and company really didn't provide too much that I felt was essential. And the overall story is no match of something like James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein or anything. But a good many of the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny, and all in all this is a pretty high-quality and fun offering.
Where the fuck is Gatlin? Does anyone know the way to Gatlin?! Augh!!
And holy shit, that kid's mouth makes Steven Tyler's look small.
The first 30 minutes start out promising. And then the final, oh, 60 minutes or so go straight to shit real quick. Possibly this was something of a decent flick when it first hit audiences in 1984. But by now, the movie gets stuck in a lot of "been there, seen that"- and seen it far better. With better performances and better direction. The child performances are cringe-worthy. The adult performances reach the same status by the mid-way point.
I'm no expert on the matter, but I'd put this on the bottom half of Stephen King film adaptations.
Quite a lot of horror-comedy lately had me craving something a little more sinister and intense. So, I turned to the French shocker, Inside.
If you're a horror fan and haven't seen it yet, well you should. The majority of the film provides a wonderfully dark, scary, and sad tone. And many of the frames are simply drenched in blood and gore.
The overlying script isn't without a couple of flaws, but still, this is an arresting horror movie experience and one that doesn't get forgotten too easily.
The first half feels like a Cliff-notes version of Romero's original Night of the Living Dead. The second half plays out in a fairly underwhelming manner, the only manner possible probably. But at this little German-language indie has the courtesy of running a scant 70 minutes.
Took me a good long while to catch up with the movie and I'm glad I finally did. All things considered the movie isn't as good as Vincent Price himself, but still a solid and iconic haunted house flick.
I never saw the American remake, and I'm all but certain I never will. This, the original out of Thailand, banks on much of the same imagery that one would associate with the more visible J-horror titles of its era.
The cast is solid, but not enthralling. The story is decent, but problematic at points. And a few images are genuinely creepy, but then get over-done.
An engaging enough fright film, but far from world-changing.
I'm very much of two minds about this movie. On the one hand, I was surprise how much of it played out like an 80s action movie (and not always the very best of 80s action flicks). On the other, I appreciated the over-the-topness of the horror elements- blood, gore, special effects makeup, what have you.
The early (remember this is a 1978 film) linking of zombie/mass-consumerism is a very clever central concept indeed, and I only wish that there were more interesting things said about it in the film.
On the whole, I consider this a pretty vital component of "Horror Movie Education", but have to admit I think the whole affair is a little over-celebrated.
Yay! It's the second annual listal HorrorFest! That time of year when I feel less bad about rolling the dice on shitty horror movies while of course also standing a far better chance to discover something truly scary and wonderful, new or old, that I haven't yet seen. I'll be doing my damnedest to watch 31 horror movies this month, and while I have a number of titles slated to watch I'm always on the search for some juicy unknown horror title to creep on by. So... suggestions are welcome and I'll be looking to see what all you other horror-hounds are up to. Happy Halloween!