TDcore's Horror Journal: January 2016
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Troll Hunter (2010)
I began this year by checking out a film that I didn't really like the first time I watched it. In fact, to be honest, I thought it was so lame that I didn't even finish it. However, after continuing to hear nothing but good things about it after all these years I decided I should give it another chance. This time I entered in with a more open mind, but this film still didn't impress me as much as I feel it should. Admittedly, I still have an incredibly hard time suspending my disbelief long enough to entertain that thought that trolls can exist. For me, this concept is not really scary and cannot really be taken seriously. That being said, this isn't a bad film. The effects are absolutely amazing for a low-budget picture. The CGI here puts it's American counterparts to shame. This is some of the best, most convincing CGI I've seen since Jurassic Park. And even though I find it somewhat cheesy, the concept of "Trollhunting" is original and fascinating. There's also a few scenes that are actually pretty suspenseful and the film closes out on a nice, aptly tongue-in-cheek moment. This isn't a great film, in my opinion, but it's an original, worthwhile endeavor that warrants a watch.
The Boogens (1981)
This little film has gathered a sizeable cult following and it's different from most horror films in the early eighties for one reason, it's actually a monster film. That's right, even among the age of countless slashers and cannibal pics, this little creature feature was a quiet success. And being a monster fan myself, I was eager to check it out. Sadly, while it's a solid effort, I can't give it a big thumbs up. This is a decent film, but that's all. The monsters are not fully shown until the end of the picture, but when they are you'll wish you'd have been able to see more of them. The creature design is awesome and the effects are fantastic for such a low budget film. Unfortunately, the monsters are given such limited screen-time, even towards the end, that they hardly feel there. Luckily, the characters are all genuinely likeable and well acted. But for a film that was trying to be more original for it's day, the film plays it surprisingly safe. The mythology for the creatures is bone dry and almost non-existent. There's no explanation what-so-ever for what they are. And while that would have been fine in other films, it's just baffling here and only proves to make the film feel more shallow. Still, worth a watch if you like creature features or you're searching for an eighties horror flick that tries something different. Just don't expect anything great.
Invaders from Mars (1986) (1986)
This was a fun flick, but nothing amazing. It's one I remember scaring the crap out of me when I was a kid, but although it does have some creepy scenes it no longer frightens me. The writing, acting and such is not that great, but solid direction from Tobe Hooper and some great effects courtesy of the legendary Stan Winston keep things going. The set design, creature effects etc. are incredible and a lot of fun to behold. Not anything groundbreaking, but solid fun.
The Burning (1981)
I love a good, solid slasher. They're one of my favorite sub-genres, and done right they can be incredibly fun horror films. It's a sad fact, however, that there's a lot of junk in this sub-genre, so finding a gem like this one is a real treat. It's not perfect, or as amazingly awesome as it's huge cult fan base would have you believe, but it's a solid, atmospheric little slasher. The direction, creepy score and likeable cast of surprisingly well developed characters lead the charge. Really, the kills aren't all that inventive, but they're nice and bloody, and one particular scene (the infamous raft massacre) is breath-takingly brutal. Great entertainment for slasher fans.
I've been tracking this little film down for quite a long time. It's troubled distribution history is akin to that of "Trick 'r Treat" or "Dead Silence", both of which I found to be good, old-school horror films that the big studios almost passed by, and never really gave a proper chance. Both of those films are classics now, but Amusement remains mostly lost. But a barrage of things, from the awesomely malevolent clown on the DVD cover, to the promising trailers made this a film that I just HAD to see. Sadly, all these years of searching were not met with the superb film I had hoped for.
This isn't a mind-bogglingly bad effort, but it's a severely disjointed and unsteady one. It's nice to see a horror director trying something different these days, but this just feels like cramming way too much into a surprisingly short film. The film follows an anthology format, with all of the stories tying together in the end, a lot like "Trick 'r Treat". But these stories don't fit together at all, and they don't really gel with the wrap-around concept. In the end, this is just an extremely strange film, and not really in the good way. Still, the direction is solid and stylish and aspects of the film feel strictly old-school. These things, combined with the unusual aura the you can't really find in any other film make it worth a look. But the whole ordeal is just far too surreal to be good.
Idle Hands (1999)
This film looked like a lot of fun and actually presents an original premise, which is always refreshing. But in order for a horror comedy to truly work both the horror and comedy aspects have to be solid. And that's not really the case here. On the horror side we have an original concept, pretty good effects and a decent helping of blood and gore. But the comedy department isn't nearly as strong. Shallow characters and mostly douchey humor hold things back. In fact, the comedy relief characters are sort of annoying. But some of the comedy does work, and the film can be mildly entertaining. If you're looking for a horror comedy you could do better, but you could also do a lot worse.
Just Before Dawn (1981)
The early eighties saw a tidal wave of slashers, hoping to cash in on the success of Halloween and Friday The 13th. Many of these films were blatant rip-offs, but some of them have become cult classics. Just Before Dawn fits in this category. It's an incredibly difficult to find film, but tracking down a copy is well worth your time. The much touted "twist" that helps separate this film from the pack is not really that shocking or original. It's more refreshing than the usual, wronged/deformed person with cool costume route, but it's still pretty shallow. Still, the film is kept afloat by stylish direction, beautiful cinematography, a thick, creepy atmosphere and a chilling soundtrack. It's not anything ground-breakingly original, but it's a solid slasher with some gruesome kills and a refreshingly un-formulaic approach to the genre.
I don't really know why I watched this. The original is a favorite of mine and this sequel's reputation precedes it. It's really as bad as you've heard. Where as the first was an atmospheric and suspenseful slasher, this one is just a dull, suspense less cash-in. There's nothing here to really keep a viewer's attention. The film is hindered further by a dry, slap-dash script and a cast full of douchey new characters that can't die quickly enough. There's nothing original or scary here. Just re-tread ground that you've seen a million times before. An incredibly lame "twist" ending seals the deal. This is one dull, stupid horror flick, and a slap in the face to the original.
The Lords of Salem (2013)
After watching his horrible butchering of the Halloween franchise, I basically wrote Rob Zombie off as a pretentious, talentless and just downright awful filmmaker. I haven't checked out any of his other films, but after continuing to hear other genre fans praise his work I decided to give him a fair chance, hoping that his original work would be better. I decided to start with his most recent offering first, but I'm no more impressed than I was. In fact, all this film accomplished was to make me loathe this guy a little deeper.
Take a few good ideas, now bury them beneath a pile of the psychedelic dream sequences from Halloween II, add some witches and lots of nude old women, and you've got this film. Really, the whole thing seemed like an excuse for Zombie to further feed his creepy obsession with getting his wife naked on screen. There's nothing scary or original about this rancid mess of a film. It steals ideas rather bluntly from older horror films, namely "The Sentinel". Most of the scare scenes come across as more disgusting than frightening, and honestly most of them just felt like an aim for pure shock value. Zombie can yak about how all these images of Priests with sacks on their heads, masturbating their bloody dicks is supposed to mean something, but it's obvious that all he cares about is offending his audience as much as possible. If you're the sort of moron who enjoys this kind of thing, then there's plenty to like in The Lords Of Salem. But for anybody who likes their horror films to have some ascemblence of structure, entertainment value and artistry, then you'll see this piece of crap as the festering pile it is. It makes me sick that Dee Wallace had anything to do with it.
The Others (2001)
This was yet another film that my family frequently watched during my childhood, that I hadn't seen in ages. What with this one being revered as such a classic, I thought it was time to give it another watch. And it was still as good as I remembered it. In my opinion, it's not a perfect film, but it's a beautifully filmed, innovative ghost story. And one of the best in it's genre. It's just missing a few special touches.
To be honest, sometimes it loses it's horror vibe for extended periods in favor of dramatic approach, and some of the characters can be extremely annoying. Nicole Kidman turns in a wonderful performance, easily one of her best, but her character is so unlikeable in the beginning of the film that it's hard to feel much sympathy for her. The same goes for the two child actors, and as any horror fan knows, bratty kids can totally destroy a good horror film. Luckily, as the film goes on, the characters develop and it becomes clearer why they act in this manner. But it's still not fun being annoyed by the main cast for the whole first half-hour of the picture. There's also not enough straight up scare scenes, although the jump-scares are well crafted and there's a few creepy scenes. Still, this film is well worth checking out, even if you've already had the twist ending spoiled for you (it's pretty amazing if you haven't). Perhaps with more viewings it will grow on me, but as it stands this is a wonderfully crafted film, worthy of it's classic status, but, in my opinion, not quite as perfect as everyone makes it out to be.
Darkness Falls (2003)
Although I had heard that this film was less than spectacular I had hopes that it would turn out to be an underrated gem. After all, we have a brilliant story here and tons of potential for an atmospheric and seriously scary horror flick. Sadly, it's neither of those things, but rather a huge missed opportunity. As I said, massive potential is here and the set-up is good, but the film's direction and editing style are it's demise. It's as if someone with Parkinson's was handling the camera every time something scary is supposed to be happening. The "ghost/creature" moves at such a hyper-fast pace that it's impossible for viewers to be scared. If you blink you'll miss her. Really. The film is also incredibly short, and a strict PG-13 rating cancels out the possibility of any truly nasty scenes or gore. The CGI effects are also wretched. This could've been a great film in someone else's hands, but as it stands it's nothing more than a severely mediocre example of how to ruin a great idea.
Night of the Demons (1988)
I really don't understand the big deal about this one. This film is heralded as a cult classic, and I've run into a lot of fellow horror fans who love it. But I don't really see the appeal. The whole thing sort of feels like a low-brow rip-off of The Evil Dead, to me. Except without the atmosphere, solid direction or gore. There's a few gore scenes, but nothing creative or cool enough to save this flick. It's surprisingly boring and drab, with long periods of nothing but un-stylistic attempts at suspense and lots of annoying dialogue between the douchebag characters. Seriously, I couldn't wait for all but two of these kids to die. Most of the actors are also downright horrible. And plot holes abound as well. We really have no idea why there's demons in this house, why it's so evil or why any of these kids are moronic enough to want to party in such a place. This could've been a fun flick. But instead, it's a dry, boring and annoying attempt. I don't get the love at all.
I wasn't expecting this film to be nearly as brutal and disturbing as it is, and while sometimes those aspects make a horror film great, this film goes a little too far for my taste. Sure, there isn't anything here so shocking that you haven't seen it before, but it's a full sensory assault and it gets a little ridiculous at times. There have been other films in which a group of characters is trapped in one place and we discover all the horrible things these people have done (Panic Button, Unfriended, etc.), but I find it hard to believe that everyone in one police station is a cold-blooded killer. It seems that the film abandons it's narrative potential in favor of pure shock value halfway through. It's effective, but it's completely tasteless and too grimy to be entertaining. This film does have a lot of potential and there are some good ideas, but the whole thing is executed wrong. A film this bloody and inventive should be fun, but Let Us Prey is just plain ugly.
I've finally tracked this one down, after years of hunting for it and I have to say, it was totally worth the wait. This is easily one of the best werewolf movies ever made. It's scary, funny and heartbreaking all at the same time and beautifully directed and acted. The effects are awesome as well, though there's not quite as many straight-up effects scenes as you would expect, but the transformation scene is easily the best to be captured on screen yet. I can honestly say that everything you've heard about this one is true and you should watch it as soon as possible. Great stuff.
I wasn't expecting to enjoy this one as much as I did, but that will teach me to doubt the genius that is Leigh Whannell. It's great to see that he's awesome at writing comedic films as well as scary ones. I've been interested in this film since it was announced, and my anticipation was totally worth it. It's always a treat when a horror comedy is actually funny, and this one certainly is. Well written characters and hilarious dialogue carry most of the film, but the horror elements are equally well handled, with some legitimately suspenseful scenes and a surprising amount of gore. Some will argue that killing children on screen is not funny, but these kids signed up for the show here and it looks like they had a lot of fun. Besides, we've been ripping the heads off adult zombies for decades now, it's about dang time that the kiddos had their day too. The cast is magnificent and everyone is genuinely funny and endearing, with plenty of familiar faces. Throw in some awesome one-liners and you've got an awesome little film. Very pleasantly surprised by this one.
President's Day (2010)
Although it lack of budget shows very strongly, I had a good time with this slasher flick. It's styled as an homage to early eighties slashers, with the filmmakers going so far as to make the film look older and even set it back in the eighties (1989 to be precise). As I said, it's very obviously an extremely low-budget film. It's not exactly the best looking flick you'll ever see and most of the actors aren't really very good, but they get the job done and none of them are unbearably bad. The film delivers the goods with it's death scenes though. None of them are really that creative, but they're all done with surprisingly good practical effects and they all deliver the blood soaked goods. If you're looking for an old-school slasher with it's tongue planted firmly in cheek, then this one is right up your alley. Just don't expect anything other than dumb fun.
This little film has quite an interesting history. See, when John Carpenter directed the original Halloween he soon had plans to make a sequel. But he never intended for it to have anything to do with Michael Myers. Instead, Carpenter thought it would be interesting to make a different Halloween film each year, with a different story centered in one way or another around the season. However, the money-grubbers at the studios saw that people wanted more Michael and shut Carpenter's idea down. After the successful Halloween II tied up the Myer's story, Carpenter was allowed to try his approach for the series. Tommy Lee Wallace was the lucky writer/director who got to make the film, but things didn't go as planned. See, marketing being what it was back in the eighties, the studio didn't really have a way to let people know that Halloween III wasn't going to be a direct sequel to the first two films, or about the anthology concept. So in 1982, hundreds of movie-goers, eager for another Myers film raised hell about the changes they weren't told of. It was a disaster, and another Halloween film wasn't made for 6 more years.
While those movie-goers were perfectly warranted in complaining about the lousy advertising, this flick didn't deserve to be dissed. In fact, if the marketing had been handled as it should've been, I think this film would've been much more well received. Luckily, over the years it has a amassed a pretty big cult following and is regarded in a much better light. It's not a classic, but it's an original film, benefitting from stylish direction, good special effects, creepy atmosphere and a fantastic score, courtesy of Mr. Carpenter himself. Tom Atkins gives another great performance as well, making this an unusual little flick, well worth your attention. Give it a try next Halloween. It deserves more love.
The Halloween franchise as a whole isn't exactly the most well received horror franchise ever. Besides the first two entries in the series, most of the other sequels are dismissed as horrible or mediocre. And don't even get me started on the Rob Zombie remakes. But I'll gladly defend this film. Sure, it may be the first step in the beginning of the horrid "mythological" sub-plot to explain Myer's taste for killing and seeming in-ability to die, but none of that stuff is even mentioned in this film. It's a nice little sequel to the original two films, with quite a few things going for it. Some nasty, cool deaths, Donald Pleasence giving his usual fantastic performance as Dr. Loomis (this is perhaps his best acting in the series), some nifty new ideas (like the town fighting back against Myers) and the adorable and already very talented Danielle Harris. Also, Michael is still just as scary as ever. It takes a little while to get off the ground, but once it does, this one doesn't disappoint. Not a great sequel, but a very solid one.
This is easily the weakest film in the entire franchise. It's also the first appearance of the "Man In Black" and the basis for the stupid mythology that ruined the franchise. That all came full circle in the sixth film, but even that one was much better than this. This is the franchise, stylistically stripped of everything that made it individual among the eighties slasher landscape. This just feels like the series repeating the motions, and trying much too hard to be different. It's an incredibly boring film, where almost every scene can be predicted long before it occurs. There's no real surprises here. Just clichés and more clichés. It's almost too hard to sit through, and even I didn't make it through without fast-forwarding. Donald Pleasence and Danielle Harris try their hardest to give this picture some life, but even their terrific performances can't save this ugly mess. The worst this franchise has to offer, besides the remakes.
Crimson Peak (2015)
Though this film had a lot going for it, I kept my hopes in check, seeing as I've always felt that, despite him being a talented director, Guillermo Del Toro's work has always been a mixed bag. However, this was actually a pretty good film. Not as good as it should have been, but still very worth watching. As could be expected, it's a beautiful picture with gorgeous cinematography and impeccable direction. The performances are all absolutely amazing too, and big part of what makes the film work. Mia Wasikowska is wonderful in the main role, with the always great Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain giving their very best. It's important that the actors worked, seeing as the film mainly centers around these three characters, and the casting couldn't have been better. Sadly, the film's main problem is it's very un-even pace. The marketing made this film appear as a classic ghost story, but this is a fairly modern film and there's much more going on the just simple hauntings. The rest can't really be shared without diverging spoilers, but the film is insanely predictable, and although the twists aren't something you see every day they are fairly cliché nonetheless. Still the film is so stylish and well made that these issues are not glaring and the film is still very enjoyable. Definitely worth your time, but not the masterpiece it could've been.
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