FILM REVIEW – ROOM

ROOM POSTER

When it comes to filmmaking, there is a very big difference between warm and sentimental. Sentimental filmmaking tends to underestimate it’s audience’s intelligence by oversimplifying complicated issues in order to ensure that they are all on the same page. Warm filmmaking takes a leap of faith and assumes it’s audience is intelligent by being completely realistic about issues without succumbing to cynicism. While I myself have a certain affinity for cynicism, a film doesn’t have to be cynical in order to be honest. Lenny Abrahamson’s Room does a beautiful job of mining human dignity and decency out of a horrific situation lesser films would seek to exploit.

ROOM 1

True to it’s title, Room opens on a room. In the room is Ma (Brie Larson) and her five-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). It’s a run-down but clean living space that Ma has been forced to live in against her will by Old Nick (Deadwood’s Sean Bridgers) for the past seven years. And so it is revealed that Jack is the product of Ma’s abduction and rape, but Ma understandably refuses to accept him as her son’s father. Every night, Old Nick comes into the room and proceeds to rape Ma while Jacob pretends to sleep in the closet, not really knowing what’s going on. Eventually Jack and Ma are able to escape the clutches of Old Nick, and the rest of the film focuses on them struggling to adapt to world much bigger and more complicated than their room.

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This is a film that rises and falls on the strength of the performances and they are all fantastic. Brie Larson delivers an incredibly complex and emotionally resonant performance as Ma, the best performance given by any actor this year. The young Jacob Tremblay is just as effective as Jack, an anything but typical five-year-old, delivering one of those child performances that’s so good it’s almost bewildering it came from someone that young. Joan Allen is excellent in a supporting role as Ma’s mother and the always great William H. Macy shows up briefly as Ma’s father. Lenny Abrahamson’s script is fantastic with the exception of some distractingly unrealistic cop characters, but his tender and intuitive direction more than makes up for it.

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After Ma and Jack escape Old Nick, we never hear from him again except that he’s caught. This might aggravate some viewers used to vigilante justice or serial killer stories. A lesser movie would have seen Ma force Old Nick to apologize before gunning him down or make the character of Old Nick more twisted and disgusting and explore him in a Buffalo Bill-type fashion. Nothing against those kinds of movies, but Room isn’t about that. Old Nick doesn’t matter in this story. This is a story about recovery and possessing impressive emotional strength against all odds. It’s about the most powerful bond of all — a parent and their child. Grade: A- 

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It’s Friday (the 13th)… I’m in Love (read: Hell)

I actually wanted to make this this post and its sequel into videos, but I honestly don’t think I’ll have the time with all the other work I’m making as well as the fact that I think if the next Motorbreath video I release isn’t Twin Peaks, you guys will murder me.

So here we are with me laying down the fruits of my very painful labor: the fact that I rewatched Frank Mancuso’s Friday the 13th franchise over the past few days (and am halfway through Robert Shaye’s Nightmare franchise) for Halloween and the fact that, well, I feel like it’s just something I gotta do every few years to see if I’ve warmed up on it.

The good thing is this: I always find myself warming up on every single one of them, no matter what.

The bad news is liking a movie and critiquing it is not the same thing and there’s no way at all I will see the Friday the 13th as more than… but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me set up shit proper.

See the Friday the 13th films are the face of the slasher genre on account of how it cements itself as a hallmark of horror cinema… fuck it, horror culture in general. The original is not the FIRST slasher genre – HalloweenBlack Christmas and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre all predate it and if we especially want to get really into the mess of things, we can find a line of slasher DNA that goes all through the Italian giallo subgenre (Mario Bava especially seemed very kill-happy with that) and ceases proper with Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, but this is all stuff for maybe a later discussion – but it is undeniably the most influential and I believe there is a reason that the REAL boom of exploitative low-budget slasher knock-offs of Friday the 13th didn’t exist until after that movie made buckets of money in 1980 and became quite the sleeper hit.

Friday the 13th is not a good fucking movie. No matter how much I start to like it (possibly from the cinema version of blunt force trauma), it’s not a competent film. The whole franchise is so bad that while the reaction I have towards Freddy vs. Jason as a Nightmare fan is “Look what they did to my Freddy!!!”, the reaction I have as a Friday fan is “Huh, just a reg’lar ol’ Friday.”

Which is a good thing for folks like me who get a kick out of watching slashers anyway, believe it or not. Suddenly, you don’t need to be talented to make a slasher picture, you don’t even need to be scary, you just need two things: tits and blood. And as much of the Friday the 13th franchise will prove, you can even skimp on the latter a bit. We get ’em slashers by the bushelful and all we need to accept is that they might be frustratingly bad.

Yeah, bad caveat. But hey when they do turn out to be good, such as a select couple of Nightmare films, it’s a real gem.

The Friday the 13th movies, as would be of many a franchise, were kind of based semi-indistinguishably on a formula that would of course go on to be ripped-off for every other slasher and by its own in-franchise offspring: Introduce a group of kids with practically no personality (the Final Girl is easy to pick out based on how she seems like a jumble of characteristics I guess that try to pass as a personality), let them indulge in the vices of sex and drugs and other things that be bad for the youth, and then have them all murdered for their delinquency by a killer. Obviously, the face of the franchise has been Jason Voorhees (especially played by former stuntman Kane Hodder during the end of the series, who had a brilliant ability to use his large body to translate into blank menace with no humanity underneath), but there have been other killers introduced in the franchise (although Jason has had an appearance in every single installment).

As such, I don’t think it’s really worth the effort to put in a full amount of reviews for each series (although I already made one for the original film and maybe someday will make ’em for the rest of the franchise) – I mean… what am I gonna do? Talk about how Jason Voorhees is so thematically dense and shit? – so from here on out, it’ll be capsule reviews for each installment based on this recent series of re-watches:

Friday the 13th (1980) or: The One Where Jason Cries Home to Mommy

Same feelings I’ve always had. Fuck its unsolvable mystery, with killing off EVERYBODY and then introducing the killer as though we were supposed to know all about Pamela Voorhees problems the whole time. Betsy Palmer’s Pamela Voorhees, who plays him with all the ripped-off psychosis of Norman Bates and not one of the nuance (from what I understand, she thought the script was shit so she didn’t even try). Fuck the night scenes where Sean S. Cunningham’s incompetence shows tenfold by not having a single thing visible and just a white dot zipping around like a fucking. Fuck Kevin Bacon, because fuck him. Fuck that twist ending, which makes no sense in the end and would only start the constant source of contention throughout the franchise as to what is the Voorhees’ motivation to begin with: Did Jason drown like this movie said? Did he not like Part 2 claims? Was he just a Lovecraftian worm thingy like Jason Goes to Hell? Give us an answer!

I cannot say “Fuck Tom Savini’s work” with the bloodflow, though. Savini, which glad to know he hated the movies too, is the sole guy who seemed to know what he was doing and provide a sense of craftsmanship that only shows when you love what you’re doing, no matter what crappy movie it is for.

The worst part? This is one of the heights of the franchise. Let’s get to the rest!

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) or: Jason’s Turn

See now here’s the one that I can actually say doesn’t pain me to watch or I don’t suffocate from laughing at it. Which is to say that there are still laughable parts of course, most notably the appearance of a cat-through-window gag that is literally tossed into the movie early on. Even A Nightmare on Elm Street has laughable moments. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that I’m willing to shrug them off.

It’s amazing what competent filmmaking does to a movie, though I’m not sure I’d call Steve Miner a competent director based on what else is under his resume. Whatever fluke he went through with this picture worked, though, especially in the final part of the film where our survivor is being chased by Jason Voorhees himself with shots that clearly establish the distance between predator and prey with visual composition that I don’t think any other 80s slasher film was really able to embrace. I mean, isn’t it a standard of slashers that their editing is so bad the killer practically teleports? Not here. Here we know exactly where Jason is in relation to the final girl and let me tell you, it definitely ups the tension in a manner you wouldn’t believe.

Plus, we also got a worthwhile moment of prey figuring out her killer’s weakness in the climax as the Jason actor (Steve Dash this go-round) gets one of his few chances to play the character as the man-child we’d expect somebody with mommy issues to be. Silently. Behind a mask. With only one eye visible. You’d expect that to be hard, but Dash pulls it off with one simply gesture. It’s praiseworthy, man. It’s praiseworthy.

And yet there are still problems. Another confusing thrown-in twist in its last few minutes. The Lead Counselor Paul (John Furey) ruins the spine of the Friday movies by claiming that Jason was never dead which… what? Then why the fuck did Pamela Voorhees run around a-choppin’ and a-slashin’ in the first movie? And, maybe the only one that most slasher fans that would disagree with every other word of this paragraph might agree with, this movie had an obvious lack of blood. It’d be worse if editor Susan Cunningham (related to original director Sean? Must investigate further) didn’t know how to really cut away at the right moment to feel the impact of each death, but it’s ok. She did. We’re cool. Kind of.

A slasher film without blood is still kind of buggy. That’s like… a porno without sex.

Friday the 13th Part III (1982) or: The One Where They Won’t Stop Shoving Shit in My Face

THEY!

WON’T!

FUCKING!

STOP!!!!!!!

GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY FACE WITH THIS BULLSHIT!

And you know what else you could get the out of my face with… this twat…

Fuck Shelly. Characters I hate and watch die is what makes watching Friday the 13th movies very cathartic to me, but seriously fuck the fuck out of him.

This is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen and whose name is there in the director’s credit?

That’s right, dawg… Steve Miner. The same guy who made the best Friday is now sullied in my eyes.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) or: The One Where Jason Isn’t the Most Frightening Thing in a Movie where…

Oh my god, is that?!

Photo on 10-29-15 at 4.16 AM

Fuck, man, I was wrong, slasher films can totally be scary. Also this happens:

And then Crispin Glover is called a “deadfuck”. Again and again. Whatever that word means. Do you see why I think full reviews are a bit too much effort for these movies now? They reach a point where they don’t even try and so I may as well just take each blow to my noggin they hit me with.

But hey, Savini is back to use his violent ability in makeup to fuck this movie to death. Because he wanted to be involved in the last one and take it to its grave.

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985) or: The One Where They Lied to Me

So this is considered a kind of low even for Friday the 13th fans and I’d be beside them as, hey, this movie is actually worse than Part III. But why it sucks is where those fans and I separate.

See it’s obvious from the very get-go that, in spite of a dream cameo, Jason Voorhees IS not the killer in this installment. “He was cremated!” as the mayor says like we’re meant to believe that. The next installment is obviously gonna retcon that for money. Since we know going in that it’s some other killer behind that mask and machete (it’s kind of a great easter egg hunt of this to catch how Jason just keeps on running into machetes like “oh look, a penny on the ground! And a machete!” It’s fucking Jersey! How the fuck?!), fans were butthurt before the movie even finished on account of the killer not being a member of the Voorhees family. That’s essential, they claim! It’s the thoroughline of the franchise, they cry!

Dudes, Dudettes, this movie would have been awful even with Jason a-killin’. It’s the one where its tone is absolute static, where its characters are all pretty much odious, where its meat-to-blood machine begins sort of being rather boring in its repetition rather than how the former two movies were at least able to keep from killing away its cast way too quickly.

It’s tough when a 90 minute movie feels as long as a Bela Tarr flick.

But hey, it’s got one of the largest body counts in the series. And one of those happens to be this gem.

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives  or: The One Where Oh, You Think You Funny, Jason?

You think you’re funny, Jason?

You think you funny, ripping off James Bond? Huh, Jason?

You think you’re funny, being ironic, Jason? Huh?

You think you’re funny with your paintball scenes, huh, Jason?

You ain’t funny.

Well, not on purpose.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) or: Carrie vs. Jason

Honestly, the final battle of this between Carrie Tina and Jason is what’s really the fuck up. Certainly better than the battle in Freddy vs. Jason by far.

The rest is of course usual Friday elements: bad writing, horrible characters, sex, blood (oh yes, this has blood), and OH SHIT… this is the first one with fucking Kane Hodder.

Here’s a real point of praise for the franchise: Kane Hodder is the best actor the series ever got, as Jason Voorhees (he took over the role until he was passed for Freddy vs. Jason to the ire of many a Friday fan). This dude has got stature, menace, weight, all this without speaking a word and having his face obscured, it’s all based on some tremendous restraint in his body language that tells us of the violence to come and how lucky we are to have someone as fucking burly as he is to take over the role and actually make Jason feel like a real threat rather than a clown, an inconvenience, or a momma’s boy (though the momma’s boy works in Part 2). Hodder’s Jason feels dangerous and that’s what’s really awesome about his Jason.

Friday the 13th Part VII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) or: I’m Guessing the Boat’s Name is Manhattan

It’s not. It’s named the Lazarus. Although it’s semi-appropriate, I don’t think the writers are really smart enough to know what Lazarus means. Anyway, anybody who has been in Manhattan or Vancouver knows that ain’t Manhattan… it’s Vancouver. So…. they lied to me. Again.

Also, here’s Kane Hodder’s very telling appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show. Which ought to illustrate the downward spiral of the series at this point.

Biggest sign of 1988/1989 being the death of the slasher… here ends Jason’s reign at Paramount Studios… The Friday the 13th franchise was sold almost immediately after this movie’s release to New Line Cinema, the House that Freddy Built.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) or: The One Where New Line Didn’t Get the Manual for the Franchise

You know how the whole Friday the 13th franchise is formulaic and repetitive? Well, that’s kind of mean-spirited of me to say… “structured” would be nicer if I cared to amend my words. And heck, they have a gimmick to distinguish each anyway – comedy, 3-D, Fake New York, Carrie, etc.

Yeah, New Line didn’t even try. They didn’t even try to catch the mythology. Suddenly, Pamela Voorhees was a witch with the Necronomicon and she used it to conjure the demon Jason as her son and now Jason can possess anybody anywhere like he ain’t gonn give a fuck.

Yay for shaking things up. But my god does it still not help. It’s the Friday the 13th franchise. It never helps. And it only got them more enemies out of the fans.

Jason X (2001) or: The One Where They Meant to Say Jason Goes to Space

This movie lost New Line money. That should tell you all you need to know about it. A franchise based on a previously lucrative subgenre that it kickstarted and for once, it lost them motherfucking money.

That plus the fact that it looks like a Sci-Fi sorry, Syfy Channel Original Movie and that’s kind of bad. I mean, look, the reason why I love the Friday the 13th movies is this… they’re supposed to be raw. Amateur. Make me look like Orson Welles. The more polished they get… the less character it has. That’s right, I’d say that franchise has character. A money hungry objectionable character, but still character.

And Jason X takes that away from trying to go all sleek and cool looking. That bugs me. That bugs me so much.

It makes this movie feel worse than A New Beginning and Part III. It makes it one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

God bless this franchise, can’t wait to jump into A Nightmare on Elm Street tomorrow.

Rank My Ranks – Halloween Edition – 4.2 – Do You REALLY Like Scary Movies?!

I decided halfway through the last post to just cut it in half, because what follows is gonna be a lot of reading, but it’ll be our top tens and Mike and I (STinG) are really excited to show you what’s up with our lists…

AND NOW ON TO THE MAIN ATTRACTIONS!!!

MIKE’S TOP TEN HORROR MOVIES!!!

10. Halloween (1978/dir. John Carpenter/USA)

When you make something as archetypal as Halloween is (for now it essentially represents the high watermark of slashers, innit?), it’s hard to explain what works in it without just sounding sort of observational like “look at dat shot!” and “look at dat performance!” where it’s all surface without being able to dig really into the film. At least that’s me, so I just have to say… there’s some unique mystery ingredient to the chemistry that I just never get my finger on… but the movie is simply perfect as it is. You can tell Curtis, Pleasance, Castle are strong as they must be, but they’re playing stocks at this point. You know Carpenter’s 5/4 synthesizer theme brings goosebumps out of you, but that doesn’t make a movie. Dean Cundey’s has a brilliant sense of catching Illinois fall days in warm oranges, but those night scenes… in ghost blues defining the shadows…. that’s how you get me shivering and shit, dawg. All these elements are brought together in a manner that makes Halloween of its own kind and never ever to be adequately copied.

Made for only $300,000, Halloween is a master class in crafty budgeting. It remains one of the scariest and most effective horror films ever made and is easily the best slasher. Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance are great, especially the latter who worked miracles with his short five day stint on set. Halloween spawned seven sequels, most of which were terrible, and two Rob Zombie helmed remakes that were surprisingly pretty solid.

9. Suspiria (1977/dir. Dario Argento/Italy)

Speaking of visual breathtaking, Dario Argento’s visual orgasm masquerading as a film Suspiria is a horror film in the way that Obayashi’s House is a horror film, well, maybe it’s a bit creepier than House. Set in a boarding ballet school in Italy, an American student must stop a supernatural evil that haunts the school. One of the prettiest movies ever made and expertly directed. Udo Kier is in this.

8. The Thing (1982/dir. John Carpenter/USA)

Oh man, this is some one of a kind type of snowy cinematography. I haven’t seen whites feel so soft and cool in another movie save Fargo. As for how good the movie as a whole is… well, I’ll give Carpenter this: he worshipped the shit out of Howard Hawks and essentially most of his classic films are Hawks remakes, although this is the only official one. This is also the one where I think he surpassed his hero – the movie is tense, shocking, visceral, fluid… all the things a growing alien monster needs!

John Carpenter’s best in my opinion, The Thing is a relentless monster movie about the destructiveness of paranoia. It takes a bit to set-up but the final thirty minutes are truly breathtaking. And that music score! Fuck, that’s a great score!

7. Dawn of the Dead (1978/dir. George Romero/USA)

One word: Savini.

Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is an excellent classic horror film, but he managed to out-do himself with Dawn of the Dead an incredibly entertaining yet poignant zombie flick that compared the undead to mindless consumers. How perfect that it’s set in a shopping mall.

6. House (1977/dir. Obayashi Nobuhiko/Japan)

Films don’t get more avant-garde and bizarre than Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House. I don’t mean to say the film is pretentious, because it’s the furthest thing from pretentious. In fact, it might be one of the only experimental films made that didn’t have an heir of pretense to it. You probably won’t understand most of the film but you will be engaged and enamoured for it’s entire 88 minute runtime. BANANAS BANANAS BANANAS BANANAS!

Badda bing bada boom, here’s the key to getting into the groove with this movie: it’s concept was fully conceived by Obayashi Nobuhiko’s daughter Chigumi when she was age 13 and the writer Katsura Chiho more moved it to paper rather than actually added anything. Bada bing bada boom, if you can’t watch the movie knowing that, go suck on a banana. Or Watermelon. Whichever you prefer.

5. Braindead/Dead Alive (1992/dir. Peter Jackson/New Zealand)

My mom tried to tell me A Nightmare on Elm Street was the bloodiest movie she saw. Boy, did I show her. But thankfully it’s not as hard to watch and there’s a real reason for that like you say… Peter Jackson, back in his early career, knew how to have fun like everybody’s business. He knew what to do to make such bloodfall funny and hilarious, to make it wacky, maybe a slight disgusting, but in the manner of a carnival funhouse where you gasp and then giggle at your own silliness. Peter Jackson was a silly motherfucker, I tell you hwat.

Babies are hilarious. Just ask Tom Bergeron of America’s Funniest Home Videos. Unfortunately, we never got see a home video of a baby ripping a woman’s head in half, so future Lord of the Rings-helmer Peter Jackson made Dead Alive, an absolutely ridiculous zombie movie set in New Zealand. Unbelievably graphic gore and violence earned this movie some controversy, but it’s done in such an obviously fake and humorous manner that it’s totally easy to digest. And boy, is it humorous, Dead Alive is among the funniest movies I have ever seen in my life. You’ll be sore from laughing when all the dust and blood has settled.  

alien-film

4. Alien (1979/dir. Ridley Scott/USA)

There has never been a more visually terrifying creature in a film than the xenomorph in Ridley Scott’s magnum opus Alien. H.R. Giger created something that instantly struck fear into the hearts of human beings. Maybe it’s because it’s so phallic. Are we afraid of being raped? Or maybe we’re afraid of our own sexuality? Feelings we can’t control? Besides the creature, the film features eye-opening art direction and an impressive cast. I’ll never look at a lunch break the same way again.

Now how the fuck am I supposed to follow that? Mike pretty much hit the nail on the head. I think the only other thing I can say is how the design of the Nostomo, the bigness of it, the ambiguity of character between the main cast (well, ruined now that we’re familiar enough with the franchise to know Ripley’s survival, but then indistinguishable before) make this a hell of a genre picture on its own even if all that blatant thematic denseness weren’t there: it’s a mix between a haunted house picture where the monster is a violent beast and a ten little indians tale where we watch each man and woman get picked off one by one without any ability to predict what’ll be left.

3. Psycho (1960/dir. Alfred Hitchcock/USA)

SPOILER ALERT – Setting up Janet Leigh as the protagonist and then brutally murdering her in the shower was an ingenious move. That’s been said by every critic ever so I feel like an idiot re-hashing it. What can you say about Hitchcock’s classic that hasn’t already been said a million times? I love how the movie shows the dangers of coddling your child and being best friends with your mother. Your mom isn’t your friend, she’s an asshole, dudes! Remember that.

2. The Silence of the Lambs (1991/dir. Jonathan Demme/USA)

You know, it’s fucking awesome to really take note of two things: One the Oscars gave Best Picture to a movie with this sort of objectionable and shocking content and did it with a straight face. Not to say most of its Oscars aren’t deserved – Indeed, I’m all in a happy hoopla over Foster and Hopkins’ wins which leads to another thing….

The best acting you’ll ever find in a horror movie and possibly the greatest characters are in Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter. One is an brilliant and ambitious FBI trainee trying to move past her redneck past and one is a brilliant and manipulative former psychiatrist locked away for countless murders. A great cat and mouse game is built around a pretty solid mystery with excellent performances all around. Hopkins and Foster both won Oscars for their work, but it’s worth mentioning Scott Glenn and Ted Levine for their excellent but obviously overshadowed performances.  

The second thing, which is how happy I am that a movie with this much dedication to telling rather than showing – it’s really not all that visually brutal… it’s heavy based on Foster’s performance and reaction to being in the presence of fucking monsters – that it can be considered one of the scariest movies of all time. Now ain’t that something.

1. The Shining (1980/dir. Stanley Kubrick/UK & USA)

You might argue that Stanley Kubrick wasn’t the greatest filmmaker to ever live and I would tell you that you’re wrong and stupid and a cockface. Then I’d apologize and say I got carried away with the whole “cockface” remark, and begin telling you how much I love Kubrick. His films are so meticulously crafted yet so emotionally resonant.  He succeeds in walking that tightrope between intellectualism and heart. My god, the man had a 200 I.Q. He just saw the world clearer or at least differently. The Shining isn’t his finest work, but it’s one of the most amazingly made horror pictures of all time. This isn’t because of the characters, the actors or the story. This is because of the atmosphere. Kubrick creates a terrifying atmosphere that automatically fills you with dread. Everytime you ride down that hallway with Danny, your heart sinks.

Hell yeah to Mike for that round of fantastic horror movie classics and now…

STinG’s Top Ten Horror Movies (circa 2015)

I want to note that by some sheer idiocy I absolutely forgot Ugetsu (1953/dir. Mizoguchi Kenji/Japan). I’m way too far along to actually put it in the list now since I think it’d make too much of a mess, but it would especially be a top 10 entry.

10. Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922/dir. F.W. Murnau/Germany)

Only seen bits and pieces, but it’s creepy as hell.

Oh boy, more Murnau gushing from me. Undoubtedly the second most accurate Dracula adaptation I’ve seen (save for Coppola’s take), it’s quite a miracle that this wasn’t destroyed because images of it may be chilling and creepy enough, but not as much as seeing Max Shreck’s beastly Count Orlok moving at a limited amount of frames between teleportation and gliding. It’s enough that even once he’s off-screen, we’re still shuddering at the thought of his return.

9. Psycho (1960/dir. Alfred Hitchcock/USA)

Has any one movie changed cinema more than Psycho? Probably Citizen Kane, but that’s not a genre picture in the same manner as Psycho. And it’s not as willing to break its narrative to such a frightening manner like Psycho throwing us in the company of Anthony Perkins’ manic performance before we have any say in the matter. That’s some dirty shit, Hitch. That’s some dirty shit.

8. The Wicker Man (1973/dir. Robin Hardy/UK)

I heard this is much better than the Nicolas Cage one, but I’m afraid it won’t be as funny as the Nicolas Cage one, I’m afraid this movie is really Face/Off.

I mean, the really strange thing about The Wicker Man is how, even though there is a constant phobia about paganism and mysticism throughout and it remains quite a thriller in every sense on account of how everyone is so obstructive and sycophantic towards Sgt. Howie, with all its pleasantries above it being so unnerving knowing that people are just not going to talk to him. It’s the backend of The Wicker Man that really really really hits horrortown, all the more potent on how it’s too late to do anything to delay the inevitable.

7. The Shining (1980/dir. Stanley Kubrick/UK & USA)

I’d love to turn this into a circlejerk about Kubrick (no for real we oughta make a post ‘cause I love the shit out of the guy too). But focusing specifically on The Shining and how I see it as a standalone movie… it’s how each new toy Kubrick gets to play with (as he always has with every new picture of his) he’s going ahead to use it to actually use these techniques like the steadicam and the fade to make the picture feel more like a ghost story. Like the characters are already spooks. Like we’ve been stuck in the Overlook just as long as Jack. Like we’ve always been stuck there. And we’ll never get an answer how.

6. The Beyond (1981/dir. Lucio Fulci/Italy)

Heard amazing things, but haven’t seen this.

Bruh. This movie has no chill with being spooky as hell. No fucking chill. You want to see something scary? Zombies! Check. Spiders eating your flesh? Check. Melting flesh? Check. Jump scares? Check. Why so many shocks and scares? Why you gonna not give us a break with the witchcraft and demon shit?

Dawg! You opened the Gate to Hell! Now, you’re gonna pay for good. The Beyond has no chill!

5. The Haunting (1963/dir. Robert Wise/USA)

Never seen this.

Ah how wonderful it is for a ghost story to really really sink its teeth into being a psychological story without ever once having to give us even the slightest hint that the ghosts are actually there. Just a group of people surrounding themselves in a place with a history of violence and going into hysterics based on their own wants and fears. It’s kind of an actor’s movie for this sort of reason – the demand to make us fear threats to characters that are never totally established – so I’m pretty sure you’d love this.

4. Vampyr (1932/dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer/France & Denmark)

Never seen this but I’m meaning to check out the Criterion Collection on HuluPlus.

Oh do. It is like passing through a nightmare, all the surrealness, the fact that our lead character kind doesn’t even react very much to the events of the film, the mix between grounded crime drama and the truth of something supernatural being in the wings. It’s a very very ghostly picture. I’d like to make a miniseries out of it one of these days.

3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974/dir. Tobe Hooper/USA)

Oof. Maybe being a huge Buckethead fan warmed me up enough for this but man, is it ever so brutal and hardcore in all the right ways that makes a movie as bloodless as Texas Chainsaw Massacre so harrowing and spindly an experience. From Daniel Pearl’s sunbaked and dried photography of the events to the sudden drop of each cut every time a blow is struck by Leatherface to really project the fatal impact of his strength, this is movie making at its most hardcore and of course the two best slasher films (this and Halloween) would belong to the finest era in American filmmaking as two sides of the Americana coin.

Terrifying, barely missed my top 10 list. I love how amazingly disgusting this film is without spilling much blood. Edwin Neal, you twisted fuck.

2. Suspiria (1977/dir. Dario Argento/Italy)

Hallucinatory and broken as a movie, it still doesn’t once hurt how unforgettable and lively Suspiria is a child’s tale for adults. The colors and shapes of our vaguest nightmares, the lullaby from hell that is the main theme by Goblin, the heightened castle-of-a-building that is the dance academy, and the very childish and animated acting from everyone is all the ingredients needed for a mix of a horror concoction and nothing else on a narrative level.
And that is SO ok, by me.

1. Night of the Living Dead (1968/dir. George Romero/USA)

This is a classic but I feel like it pales in comparison to it’s sequels Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. Whistle tips to having an African-American in the lead way back in 1968.

You’re probably right that Night is kind of meager potatoes next to the likes of Dawn of the Dead. Part of Dawn’s strength as a movie is how well it expanded on all of Night’s strengths without any of its DIY limitations.

But it’s still chilling to me. It’s still absolutely kinetically violent in a manner that shocks me so much, I forget largely that this isn’t the first movie to use cinema to shake audience’s into feeling in danger (I mean… hey hey, that there Psycho), but it does it so strongly every time I watch it get floored by its hopelessness and rage by the end of the movie. I could probably big up to how it’s a hallmark of the creativity and ingenuity of indie filmmaking as far back as the 60s and its ability to comment on complex topics such as race relations and Vietnam War, but maybe for another time. Because, you see, the only reason I can say I put Night of the Living Dead at the top spot is because it shook me to watch it and it never stops shaking me every time. It pushes me as a filmmaker and it throws me about as a horror fan.

AND THAT’S A WRAP! Thanks so much for reading all of these guys! Got any top ten horror movies of your own? We’re totally curious to see yours, comment below and let us know.

Mike and I have an idea of what our next Rank My Ranks will be so, here’s to looking forward to the next one. I want to especially thank him for having this idea, Mike is the man!

Rank My Ranks – Halloween Edition – 4.1 – Do You Like Scary Movies?

We have come to the final hour of this Halloween Edition of Rank My Ranks between Michael and I.

Where we are going ahead to list out our top ten twenty twenty-fucking-five horror movies out of all the many horror films we’ve seen.

Granted, if I’m being frank, I am so tired and out of it that I can’t possibly write a full intro to this and so excited about presenting our lists that I want to get right out to it. Mike and I will be presenting our ranks between 25-11 each where we remark on each others’ block of runner-ups altogether rather than movie by movie (because who wants to read my blather for a whole 50 entries) BUT… then we will be going one by one on each of our top tens to present our newfound Top Ten Horror Movies We’ve Seen…

And now cut right to the chase… STinG’s comments in blue Mike’s in red

Here we go!

STinG’s 25-11 Bitch-and-a-Half Runner-ups

25. House on Haunted Hill (1959/dir. William Castle/USA)
24. The Evil Dead (1981/dir. Sam Raimi/USA)
23. Ravenous (1999/dir. Antonia Bird/USA)
22. The Descent (2005/dir. Neil Marshall/UK)
21. Black Sunday (1960/dir. Mario Bava/Italy)
20. Eyes Without a Face (1960/dir. Georges Franju/France & Italy)
19. The Thing (1982/dir. John Carpenter/USA)
18. Alien (1979/dir. Ridley Scott/USA)
17. The Phantom of the Opera (1925/dir. Rupert Julian/USA)
16. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935/dir. James Whale/USA)
15. Evil Dead II (1987/dir. Sam Raimi/USA)
14. Don’t Look Now (1973/dir. Nicholas Roeg/UK & Italy)
13. Dawn of the Dead (1978/dir. George Romero/USA)
12. Halloween (1978/dir. John Carpenter/USA)
11. Cat People (1942/dir. Jacques Tourneur/prod. Val Lewton/USA)

A lot of these are on my list. I’ve talked about them there, so I’ll just mention the ones that aren’t. Don’t Look Now was a really disappointing for me. It had the potential to be a masterpiece, but sloppy, uneven editing and unnecessary scenes really brought it down for me. We didn’t need to know anything about that guy who owned the restaurant in the hotel, fuck that guy. Everything else was so masterfully done and that ending was beautifully ironic.

I totally agree with calling the editing of Don’t Look Now uneven and even sloppy, but that’s exactly why I loved the movie so much. Obviously it is mainly a movie about grief on a thematic level, but narrative-wise, the central concept is how Donald Sutherland’s character is clairvoyent and refuses to accept it. As a result, we have to flip around continuity, narrative coherence, and everything about ideal editing circumstances – focusing on some dumb things like items and the restaurant owner like you say – to give us the same sense of confusion as Sutherland at first glance (especially frustrating when you’re as much of a literalist as I am) and it’s only at the very end – grim and dark as it is – that everything finally begins to piece itself together and we get why the movie has itself presented in every way, which leads to the irony of the ending like you say.

The movie is basically showing how the leads are so concerned with the past that they don’t see what’s coming at them until it’s too late, even with one of them turning out to be psychic, and the editing is the biggest tool the film has to showing us that.

I watched half of Eyes Without a Face the other week while I was home with a fever. I fell asleep toward the middle and have yet to finish it. I thought it looked beautiful and it was delightfully weird. I’m assuming it was a huge inspiration for Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In. I loved that movie.

Surprising nobody vaguely familiar with either movie, Eyes Without a Face indeed inspired The Skin I Live In (which I too really liked). Eyes Without a Face gets its props for how well it uses the art of implication – we get some notorious shots of the doctor’s cruelty, but most of it we can just tell has occurred by what’s on-screen and what’s unsaid. I also kind of regret not having Edith Scob’s character in my favorite characters list.

I’ve seen bits and pieces of Ravenous. Mostly I remember an opening scene where shots of soldiers ravenously eating prime rib are intercut with gory battle sequences. I thought that was wonderful.

I ate my own steak dinner unknowingly while catching this flick and let me tell ya, it made me feel sick. That opening scene you mentioned alone makes a guy as carnivorous as me want to put off meat for a little while.

My dad never wanted to watch it though (he found it disgusting) so I’d only catch glimpses of it on STARZ as a child before my dad put on Eddie and the Cruisers or some shit. Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle are both excellent thespians.

Ravenous gets by specifically on how well Pearce and Carlyle play two sides of the morality of cannibalism (and given how brilliant Carlyle is at playing villains and Pearce as heroes, we can guess who is who) and give it a lot more heft beyond the fact that it’s just a pretty rousing and rip-roaring comedy. Its black humor and bloody mania makes me call this the best Tales from the Crypt episode that never happened.

Also, fun fact: Pearce is a vegetarian. Making this movie must have been hell for him.

As for the rest of my honorable mentions, well, a lot of these are simply based on pieces of nostalgic fun for me (Cat People, House on Haunted Hill, The Evil Dead, Bride of Frankenstein) and others on movies that really have no fresh new manner of making horror so asphyxiating and jolting as a genre for me (The Descent, The Phantom of the Opera, Halloween, Dawn of the Dead, Don’t Look Now). I think there’s a lot of movies that take the genre to its most literal aspects of crypts and tombs and phantoms (Black Sunday – I also forgot to put Twitch of the Death Nerve because I’m an idiot), some harkening back to the silent era of melodrama and still finding a couple of moments to actually bring up the first hits of terror to an audience, such as The Phantom of the Opera. Obviously, I feel like I’ve been at points a bit too much of a fan-guy and at points too self-conscious about how this list looks as an overall collection of horror movies, but in the end, I can still look at this list, shake my head only slightly (since I’m so everywhere that this list may eventually prove to be as arbitrary and outdated as last year’s) and say “Yeah, this is my horror canon”.

It probably also shows how much horror I still have to go through.

MIKE’S 25-11 RUNNER-UPS

25. Scream (1996/dir. Wes Craven/USA)
24. The Descent (2005/dir. Neil Marshall/UK)
23. The Cabin in the Woods (2012/dir. Drew Goddard/wri. Joss Whedon/USA)
22. 28 Days Later… (2002/dir. Danny Boyle/UK)
21. Night of the Living Dead (1968/dir. George Romero/USA)
20. Day of the Dead (1985/dir. George Romero/USA)
19. The Devil’s Rejects (2005/dir. Rob Zombie/USA)
18. House on Haunted Hill (1959/dir. William Castle/USA)
17. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984/dir. Wes Craven/USA)
16. The Exorcist (1973/dir. William Friedkin/USA)
15. The Babadook (2014/dir. Jennifer Kent/Australia)
14. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986/dir. John McNaughton/USA)
13. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974/dir. Tobe Hooper/USA)
12. Evil Dead II (1987/dir. Sam Raimi/USA)
11. The Last House on the Left (1972/dir. Wes Craven/USA)

Wes Craven appears three times on this list, which is appropriate. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, Craven really is a second-rate horror artist for the most part. He’s made great horror films, but he didn’t make the best ones. The Last House on the Left almost earned a spot in my top 10 though, for it’s unblinking honesty towards savage violence. You can’t just dismiss it as torture porn, not when the perpetrators are this self-aware of the severity of their crimes. Based on Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring of all things, Craven peaked with his first film.

I’m actually that kind of guy who actually does dismiss The Last House on the Left as torture porn (whist The Virgin Spring is perhaps one of my favorite movies – TLHotL doesn’t have anywhere near Sven Nykvist’s eye nor any of its spiritual commentary). It’s shot like the cinematographer had a concussion, exploitative especially in its nature (where it was conceived up until the second before they began shooting as a sexploitation film – as a result most of the actors are porn stars and have exactly the sort of acting capability you’d expect) and the fact that it feels like Craven maybe tried to make the low-budget incapable filmmaking (since it WAS produced by Sean S. Cunningham of all people) seem like a benefit in the vein of a documentary is admirable – but it’s not happening in a movie with a hick version of the Keystone Kops, junky kazoos spray across your score, and a shot of a dog reacting to the word “tits” like a bad Disney movie. The notoriously central rape scene is of course the one point of harsh raw nihilism, but the fact that we have a whole lot of bungled movie around it really ruins both the mood of the picture (making it a mess) and whatever attempt Craven made to have a full movie being brutal. This movie feels like one of those toothpaste oreo pranks… the before and after of the rape scene are the outer cookies of the Oreo being deceivingly pleasant in their bootleg way, the toothpaste filling ruins your fucking day.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a classic that did everything right. It had a strong brunette protagonist, created a world where anything could happen and introduced us to the Michael Jordan of boogeymen.

Right?! RIGHT?! I could see myself forgetting about Myers or Voorhees, but never Krueger. Stays in my heart. And tears his way through there.

A lot of people like to shit on Scream, Salim included, because it’s so 90s it makes a part of your soul die every time you watch it. I loved Scream, though, it’s funny, self-aware and manages to be thrilling at the same time. It may seem a bit too on-the-nose today, but it opened the door for many other great self-aware genre films. There wouldn’t be a Cabin in the Woods without Scream.

Actually if we’re going to be praising Craven, I’d like to throw Scream in that mix as well. Because, like you say, I do like to shit on Scream (I didn’t know a lot of people do, that makes me feel less alone), but I guess at once a benefit and part of the reason I shit on it is because of this: Craven is too fucking good at his job. Scream as a picture made and crafted by a guy who cares as much about his work as Craven clearly did all his career is a solid slasher picture. It could get away from its snark (I wish it did) and still be a slasher film. That’s all Craven that makes it hold up that way. Anybody who thinks he lost it needs to see Scream 2’s Sound Studio chase, holy shit, and I like that movie less than Scream.

No no, my problem with Scream is all on Kevin Williamson’s script and smug snark all throughout.

Though, you’re probably right that we wouldn’t have Tucker and Dale vs. Evil or Cabin in the Woods or many other great self-aware horror movies either. How about that Boy Meets World episode “And Then There Was Shawn”? That killer’s look was totally taken by Scream. And it also gave us the 2nd Coming of Slashers. Albeit less likeable because of… the WB.

Other solid Craven pictures include Scream 2, The Hills Have Eyes, The Serpent and the Rainbow and the hilarious The People Under the Stairs. He also directed Music of the Heart with Meryl Streep.

I LOVE The People Under the Stairs, Music of the Heart (Meryl Streep – Number One Horror Monster) and The Hills Have Eyes is the only Craven movie I hold higher than Nightmare on Elm Street. I’d also throw Red Eye in that zone.

He also was boss enough to really take charge if he either didn’t feel a project was worth his while (Scream TV Series, the Nightmare sequels) or if he honestly didn’t feel he performed to his ability (Scream 3).

R.I.P. Wes. You weren’t the best, but you were a class act.

R.I.P.

As for the rest of your list, it’s also really great. It’s extremely telling to see pictures like Last House, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Devil’s Rejects all in one collective canon. They all are obviously made in a raw manner that feels exploitative, but in the case of Henry – it’s a very telling psychological piece that nevertheless made me feel fucking dirty that I don’t want to watch it again (in a career as full and varied as Michael Rooker’s, it’s my favorite performance of his that we get to at once have this outer emotionless layer, but have moments of delicacy and clear motivation like his killing of Otis or where he talks about his mother’s murder) – and Texas Chain Saw… well, I’ll get to TCM. Hell, we could even throw the DV shot 28 Days Later… in that raw pile, even if it’s more fantastical than the others. 28 Days Later… has a very exhilarating, in the moment feel to it (even it’s narrative doesn’t really catch up except every once in a while when the characters stop running).

Speaking of psychological portraits like Henry (albeit more accessible), we’ve got The Babadook AND The Exorcist both being solid (in The Babadook’s case, MORE than solid) in making us feel just as confused and lost and helpless towards their child as its two leading mother characters played by Essie Davis and Ellen Burstyn. They are my emotional anchors in the picture.

I’m extremely happy to see something as cheesy and fake and fun as House on Haunted Hill being on your list and the amount of easy groupings we can make with this bunch of honorable mentions (LHotL; TCM; Henry for rawness), (Babadook; Exorcist – for parents under stress), (Evil Dead II; HoHH for camp), (Dead films, 28 Days for zombies), (Cabin in the Woods, Scream for meta commentary), all really tells on your tastes and what you respond to in a movie. I fucking love your list.

TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT POST!

Death By Cinema – 28 – Tenebre (Unsane)

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 28 – Tenebre (Unsane)

So today, I’ll be looking at the work of Dario Argento. Though his work is not that well regarded in recent years, in the 70s through early 80s, he was a god of Italian cinema. His work, Suspira, is still considered a masterpiece of horror, exploitation, and giallo cinema. Not just that, but he also worked on screenplays with my all-time favorite director, Sergio Leone. Now sadly, I’ve only seen one Argento film, Suspiria. It is everything it’s reputation claims it to be, a work of genius. Everything from the color to the cinematography to the suspense to the soundtrack (Goblin rules!) is brilliant. For whatever reason though, I haven’t really checked out the rest of his work.

The film I’ll watch today, Tenebre, falls in a time when Argento was at his peak, having films like Inferno and Opera coming out around the same time. The version I have of this film is, unfortunately, the American cut Unsane. That means there’s about 10 minutes missing from the Italian cut. Still, not as bad as my American cut of Deep Red: The Hatchet Murders, which is missing about 25 minutes, hence the reason I’m not reviewing that. It is also a bit of a cheap print, not at all remastered. I’m sure because of this, I’ll miss out on a bit of Argento’s brilliance, but hopefully enough will shine through.

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
Before I start this film, can I just say Unsane is a stupid title? It implies that it’s the opposite of sane, yet we already have that word. It’s a common word. It’s insane. Even if the movie was just called Insane, that wouldn’t be a great title, but it would be better than friggin’ Unsane. Let’s just all call it Tenebre and be done with it. Also, Tenebre translates to Darkness, which is still a better title than Unsane.
So, the title card is meant to look like the Psycho lettering. The rest of the credits… are in Italian? So, is this the uncut Italian version? Not according to IMDb, at least as far as length goes, but it’s weird they left in the Italian credits.
John Saxon is in this? Kick ass!
Actual opening line: “The impulse had become irresistible. There was only one answer to the fury that tortured him. And so he committed his first act of murder. He had broken the most deep-rooted taboo, and found not guilt, not anxiety or fear, but freedom. Any humiliation which stood in his way could be swept aside by the simple act of annihilation: Murder.” Very cool.
The soundtrack cuts out for a brief moment at the end of the soundtrack which is a little awkward, as I want to hear Goblin!
50s actor Anthony Franciosa is the star of this particular film. Hopefully he’s good.
A young Roman woman whores her way out of a shoplifting charge. Literally, she tells a shopkeeper she’ll sleep with him over what amounts to the price of a paperback.
This woman just kicked a hobo in the nuts twice. She then escapes behind an easily climbable fence. I honestly don’t get why the hobo doesn’t hop the fence.
So far in this film, I like some of the lighting and some of the cinematography, but nothing’s really standing out… except for the music, which is amazing as always.
So, this killer (we only see his hands) slices a woman’s throat after shoving pages of a book (Tenebre) down her throat. I have a feeling this is one of the scenes that I’d get more out of in it’s uncut form.
We see a feminist come up to Peter Neal (Franciosa) who accuses his book (Tenebre) of being sexist, because the victims are all female and the heroes are all macho men. I’m a feminist myself and I think there can be stories like that that aren’t necessarily sexist, it just depends how they can be done. I do prefer strong female characters, though.
An Italian cop comes to interview Peter about the murder. Peter was on a plane when it occurred however, so he couldn’t have done it… right? Also, the cop is wearing a lime green shirt.
Actual line: Det. Germani: “I only drink on duty. Scotch, please.” I guess they do things a little differently in Italy.
Actual line: Peter: “Let me ask you something? If someone is killed with a Smith & Wesson revolver… Do you go and interview the president of Smith & Wesson?”
So, apparently this is one of those “killer mirrors the killings in a writer’s novel” stories. This is a hackneyed thing currently, but this is one the first examples I can think of, so it works.
So, the killer (who sounds female) calls Peter. Unfortunately, she whispers the whole conversation, so in this print of the film I can barely understand what she’s saying.
So Det. Germani has a female partner, Altieri. I like her. She’s alright.
We see a weird dream sequence where a woman takes her top off and people run along the beach. Then the woman puts her high heel on one dude’s face as she kicks him. I’m not sure what this is supposed to represent, but I have a feeling this is another thing that is cut.
Man, all the murders are cut to pieces. We see a razor flash in this one and blood spurt, but I don’t know if the throat was cut or what. It makes it look like bad editing or bad directing and I know it’s not either in the uncut version.
There are a couple really cool shots immediately after the killing. The murderer cracks a lightbulb with his (her?) razor, creating a really cool visual. We then see an old Argento standby shot of a woman falling dead through a window/mirror. This is immediately followed by some cool quick shots of a camera flashing. Solid work.
The killer running the straight razor under a tap is also neat.
Wait… is this movie coming out in favor of lesbian rights in 1982? Good on you, this movie. Good on you.
So, all of a sudden, a little bug appeared in the corner for the DVD production company that put out this print, Mill Creek Entertainment. I wouldn’t be bragging about your association to this print, guys. But hew, at least it’s better quality than Oasis of the Zombies, which you also put out.
Man, that girl just wacked the hell out of that dog with a stick! And the dog recovers and jumps a big ass fence? Man, talk about one badass dog. And now it’s just savaging her.
The chick running from the dog has accidentally stumbled onto the killer’s workspace. I don’t like her chances much.
You can tell this scene is edited, because the Goblin theme jumps around. Come on censors, maybe you can mess with Argento’s brilliant work, but you DO NOT FUCK WITH GOBLIN!
Yep, that woman’s dead.
There’s some bad writing in this scene where Peter and his friends are trying to figure out the killer’s motivation, because Peter does that thing where he asks himself introverted, soliloquy questions, even though everyone can hear him.
Peter is assaulted by the killer (hit with a rock on the back of the head). Luckily, his assistant Gianni saves him. Though, it’s a little suspicious.
Hey, here’s John Saxon. There’s only one problem though, the audio is a few frames out of sync with his lips, so it looks like a bad dub, when in it is clearly John Saxon speaking.
John Saxon eventually gets killed, though I can’t see anyone anywhere near him. We do see a pair of red high heels walking around the crime scene, so I think the killer being a woman is a safe bet… unless they pull a Dressed to Kill. I hope they don’t, it worked in that film, but otherwise it’s a hack ending.
So, Gianni figures out the killer seems to be this male TV host and is garroted for his trouble.
I will say, I like how this giallo keeps me guessing as to who the killer is. That being said, it is hard to follow the story a bit, though I blame this one the cut.
Alright, so we do find out the woman with the red shoes was a red herring. She’s a friend of Peter’s and will be the next victim.
Oh, son of a bitch! They cut the best scene! Basically, the red shoed woman is supposed to get her arm chopped off through a window. It’s a little cheesy, but very violent and cool. It’s part of the reason this movie ended up on the video nasty list in the UK. I’m not surprised it’s cut, but I am annoyed.
So, Peter is still here and he just hit Altiere with an axe. I guess the various flashbacks throughout the movie are meant to show how he was insane, but it was very unclear how he was the killer, though I guess he wasn’t. If that sounds confusing… it’s because it is very confusing.
Basically, how I understand it is the guy who interviewed Peter earlier was the killer for most of the movie. He then died, but Peter figured he could use their deaths to keep the murderer alive a bit longer, so he could kill his fiancee and her lesbian lover. He manages to kill the lover and the female detective before being caught. I had to look this up on Wikipedia to make sense of it all.
Peter just slit his own throat in what is, by far, the most extreme shot I’ve seen in this print. His face was a bit over-the-top, but still provoked a reaction.
So, Peter faked his death with a dummy razor that shoots blood (I want one), and he proceeds to sneak up behind Germani and kill him with an axe. He then hides behind this weird statue with a bunch of points. His fiancee opens the door and accidentally kills him. She then screams as the credits roll.

I have mixed feelings about this movie. On one hand, there is a lot to like here. The story is solid, with good mystery and a nice ending that keeps us guessing. The gore and effects (what we can see) are nice. The directing and cinematography all seems to be good here, though I expected nothing less from. The music is excellent, though I expected nothing less from Goblin. My entire problem with the film has to do with the print. First off, the colors are cloudy and muted, same with the sound. That is one thing that lessens my enjoyment. The main problems are the cuts. They cut almost all the major gore, which not only kills the feel of the film, it messes with continuity and my ability to follow the film. I think if I ever see the original Italian version, or just a better American version, I might like it a bit better. I’ll go ahead and recommend it if you can find a good copy, otherwise wait till you can.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at a film called the worst giant monster movie ever, The Giant Claw!

Rank My Ranks – Halloween Edition – 3.5 – The Monster Demands a Mate!

In all my glut and overzealousness with making a list about my favorite movie characters as our last Rank My Ranks had, I ended up with a lot of movie characters in the shortlist from the same movies that were… shall we say… complimentary to each other. And it was a pretty hard thing to let go of, but eventually I was able to make that cut by allowing myself one more list attached to the characters of my favorite horror movie based on the chemistry between certain characters… y’know, the kind Mike and I have so little of. Usually these characters have a negative charge against each other (a lot of these are more foes than friends), but they nevertheless play off each other in a manner that the movies they’re in wouldn’t be the same without.

I didn’t add to the last post because it already seemed like too much, but allow me to now behold as a bonus:

STinG’s Top 6 Horror Movie Duos (in chronological order)

STinG’s comments in blue. Mike’s in red.

Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) and Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935, dir. James Whale)

Because Dr. Pretorius is fabulous in and of himself but when he’s really trying to hit on Dr. Frankenstein and make him eschew his marriage vows to literally create a person with him… I mean, you can’t get much more overt in what Whale was saying than that. If the Monster is the heart of Bride of Frankenstein, this couple is its soul.

Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) and Sgt. Howie (Edward Woodward)
The Wicker Man (1973, dir. Robin Hardy)

Two opposing sides in this struggle for an audience – One’s an uptight asshole cop who is there on a mission more intent on feeling holier-than-thou, the other a polite and charming pagan with a sinister undertone underneath him. Guess which one was actually the right side?

Carrie (Sissy Spacek) and Margaret White (Piper Laurie)
Carrie (1976, dir. Brian De Palma)

Two amazing actresses on the top of their game. The emotional abuse here is far scarier than any supernatural elements the film had to offer.

Sympathy for the devil in one easy stroke: Margaret’s a vicious vile monster towards her daughter, but once Carrie lets out all her rage, we find who the BIGGER monster is. Possibly the finest two-man con in all of cinema.

Michael Emerson (Jason Patric) and David (Kiefer Sutherland)
The Lost Boys (1987, dir. Joel Schumacher)

Speaking of movies I love because they are so 80s it hurts. This isn’t a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but I absolutely love it. Kiefer Sutherland is terrifying in this.

Vampires are meant to be sexy in this day and age. That’s kind of a given for most fans of the culture (I personally wish I were present for when we voted on this but whatever) and while there are sexier couples or cultures, none have the sort of homoerotic charge to them that Michael and David have as David tries to seduce him into joining vampirism. So strong the ACTUAL love interest for Michael (played by a stunning Jami Gertz) is just like “Oh hi, I like Michael too” in the background while Michael and David are just fucking around with the rest of the gang.

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance), and Michael Myers (Nick Castle)
Halloween (1978, dir. John Carpenter)

The original and arguably best dynamic between slasher and final girl, with all the right and usual tropes of being stalked and hunted, being the stalker/hunter, and being the man crazed enough to try to stop pure evil, all clicking together perfectly and never ever being surpassed.

Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and Nancy Thompson (Heather Lagenkamp)
The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise (1984-94, prod. Robert Shaye)

I don’t think it’s such a coincidence that the only good Nightmare films are the ones with Lagenkamp co-starring alongside Englund. Nancy is the one real person we meet head-to-head with in the entire slasher genre when it comes to how she approaches Freddy all her life, from sleep deprivation, half-baked ideas about how to stop him as a teenager, to going into the dreamworld herself to protect kids its her job to defend, to (if we go through New Nightmare’s meta narrative as Nancy story as I do) realizing something that logically shouldn’t be real is (also the stalking aspect). Freddy’s the bomb alone, I don’t need to say that – but he’s real power is in being a terror to Nancy Thompson and how their performances live on each other.

Nancy Thompson is a very strong female protoganist but I really do think that Heather Langenkamp is a fairly bad actress. It’s more forgivable in the original but it was the biggest issue I had with Dream Warriors (Part 3). On the other hand, Robert Englund is a fantastic actor and that series owes everything to him. I’ve always thought Wes Craven’s New Nightmare was a bit overrated. It’s an interesting concept, but I feel like it doesn’t live up to it’s potential. We never got a Robert Englund/Freddy Krueger showdown. How awesome would that have been? As for the other sequels, I actually really enjoyed Renny Harlin’s Dream Master (Part 4). It’s poorly acted, cheesy and over-the-top, but it’s one of the most distinctively 80s horror sequels. Part 2 is awful but hilarious because of it’s unintentional homoeroticism.

The only thing I want to go on record with is how I don’t think Part 2‘s homoeroticism is unintentional considering the scenes where Jesse’s asked if he’s sleeping with Lisa and how he goes to an S&M bar and all that (unless the writer is a blathering idiot and… well, considering how bad the movie is, I can’t put that past him  turns out writer David Chaskin, Englund, and the openly gay Mark Patton – almost always making me slip into calling him Mike – who played Jesse all knew what they were doing… it’s director Jack Sholder that had no idea what movie he was making). In fact, I think the question of Jesse’s sexuality is easily the closest to a point of interest I had in the film and his sexual uncertainty was exactly what made him a perfect target for Freddy. But I’m digressing, so I rest the case.

5 and 6 are easily the worst of the series.

And that’s my little bonus list for y’all. I made it extra short so you don’t have to suffer at all. Feel free to comment your own favorite horror movie duos and such.

Death By Cinema – 27 – Oasis of the Zombies

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 27 – Oasis of the Zombies

So, I’ll make this quick, since today is a busy day for me and I’ve already talked about Jess Franco in these reviews. I like Franco’s early work. It shows a passion for film and at least a modicum of talent. His cinematography, for an exploitation film, is usually good. However, today, I’ll be looking at one of his later films, from the early 80s. Oasis of the Zombies is a movie that features Nazi Zombies! With that premise, how can you lose? Well, apparently you can, because this is often of the lists of the worst zombie film ever. How can this be? Did Franco lose the talent or passion he had? What’s going on? Let’s find out!

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
To start with, this is a poor print of this movie (looks 5th or 6th generation VHS), but I can roll with it. It’s an exploitation film, so it doesn’t have to be great quality. That being said, it’s very cloudy and the frame keeps jumping.
I will say so far I’m not liking the cinematography. It’s mostly focused on zooms and shots of women’s asses so far.
God, did Franco forget there are other types of camera movements besides zooms?
A couple of bad steady cam shots later, the two females starting off the film get killed by our unseen zombies and we start the most boring credit sequence. Seriously, you could have at least shown their deaths Franco… we could at least use some blood and guts.
In the credits, Jess Franco is credited as AM Frank. It’s not a good sign when the director doesn’t want his real name attached to the film.
So the movie is all about this group of treasure hunters looking for gold lost during WWII. The Nazi’s had the gold and died while trying to move it across the desert. Supposedly their “ghosts” zombies protect the gold. One treasure hunter already poisons and kills another trying to find the gold. He’s supposed to be a Nazi himself, I suppose.
Remember how I love the sound in Bava’s film yesterday? I think I even commented on Franco’s use of sound. There’s no joy in Mudville with this film though. Long scenes of little or no sound or a bad organ score.
This film is very slow and plodding, so far. Franco never went too quick before, but this is miserably slow.
Boy, the dub on this is bad. All the characters, be they German, English, French, or Arab, all have vaguely American accents.
This fire fight is really hard to follow, as all the soldiers look exactly the same. I’m not sure who’s the British and who are the Nazis.
Man, those shots are just badly lit. Why would Franco have an outdoor shot against the sun so everyone looks like a silhouette?
This flashback has already been going on 10 minutes, yet it seems like an hour.
Ok, so the main guy looking for the gold is actually a British soldier. It’s sad it took me 27 minutes to figure that out, but that’s just bad storytelling.
It’s even more confusing as this has all been a flashback by his son, so his son is the guy who’s gonna look for the gold. His friends will come with him… and probably get eaten.
The one guy who killed the other one earlier in the film has arrived at the oasis and they decide to camp out. Maybe now we’ll actually get a couple kills.
They zoom in on something, but my print is so bad, I don’t know what it’s supposed to be.
Okay, so here’s the first zombie and… it looks okay. Not great, but not the worst zombie puppet I’ve seen. The real people dressed as zombies though… yikes. It’s bad. I just looks like they have really muddy faces. One of the guys gets eaten (off camera of course) and another is strangled. Strangled by a zombie… I don’t think I’ve ever seen that.
So, all the major villains are now dead, except for the main baddie who was bitten, but manages to drive off, leaving his friends. We see a bit of gore in this sequence eventually, but it’s real quick. Really though, we see nothing.
Ha! One of the zombies has Marty Feldman eyes.
That is the laziest street merchant I’ve ever seen. He barely tries to sell anything. “Yes. Yes. Look. Nice things.”
BTW, I’m really not commenting on much because NOTHING IS HAPPENING. This is so dull!
So, the main baddie is now a zombie… sorta kinda. He just kinda wanders around weirdly screaming. Seriously, he’s get the weakest screaming game and then dies in the lamest way.
Two reporters talk to a Muslim priest who burns the baddie’s body as our young heroes look on.
You know, the water bouncing off this river is really pretty, but it means the two characters swimming in it are put into silhouette. It’s just sloppy work, Franco.
Actual line: “You look like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.” *everyone cracks up like this is the funniest joke ever, when it is, in fact, not* “Fuck off.” Brilliant response.
So, the group arrives at the oasis, one guy swings a pickaxe one time and he thinks he’s found the gold. That would be too simple.
So there’s a sex scene set to organ music… because when I think mood music, I think a church organ!
The zombies finally begin to attack the friends of our young treasure hunter. The first one dies unconvincingly.
God, even the attacks come so slowly. Franco, I get you want to build suspense, but let’s GO!
The worms crawling across the dead are actually somewhat effective and cool.
Actual line (read with no inflection): “Ronald. No. Ronald. Help me.”
The screen is so muddy on these last shots, it’s hard for me to tell what’s going on, but I’m pretty sure they’re all going to die.
Never mind, our main guy and gas stay alive because he set most of the zombies on fire and… one just fades away? So, are they ghosts or zombies? What?
Actual closing lines of the film: Sheik: “Did you find what you were looking for?” Treasure guy: “I mainly found myself.” BOOOOOOOOO!!!
The film just ends abruptly with a title card reading THE END.

Jess Franco… what happened to you man, you used to be cool. Seriously, this was terrible. It wasn’t shot well, it wasn’t written well, the zombies were terrible, yet somehow more emotive actors than the actual actors. More over, it’s boring. I’v said it before, I can forgive a lot in a film, but I can’t forgive a boring movie. I can’t say this is the worst film I’ve ever seen, nor can I even say this is the worst zombie film, but my God this was a stinker. And I felt so bad! I want to like Jess Franco. I don’t know what happened to him. As shown by my two Orloff reviews, he was a competent director, but here… I mean, you could see flashes of decency, but that’s about as much credit as I’ll give him. I mean, I still seek out his work, especially the early stuff, but… man, what happened?

Anyway, tomorrow I’ll watch a film by Dario Argento, Tenebre. Unfortunately, my print is by the same company who put out Oasis of the Zombies, so while I do have hopes for the film being good, I’m not sure about the overall video quality. We’ll see!

Death By Cinema – 26 – Black Sabbath

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 26 – Black Sabbath

Today, I’ll watch a film by a true horror and exploitation legend, Mario Bava. Bava was Italy’s master movie maker when it came to this genre of films. Not only did he pioneer the Giallo film, he pioneered the slasher film. And here’s the thing… unlike many exploitation directors, Bava had a tremendous reputation as a filmmaker. His use of color is especially talked about, and his films have influenced filmmaker such as Dario Argento, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Bava’s own son Lamberto, himself a horror director.

So, why haven’t I reviewed Bava before? The simple answer is… I really didn’t have any of his movies. This changed last year at Phoenix Comic Con, specifically the Fangoria booth, where a couple was selling their old exploitation DVDs for $5 a pop. So for a grand total of $10, I bought both of the Bava Boxes, a couple of phenomenal sets.

The film I’ll review today, Black Sabbath or I tre volti della paura, is supposed to be one of Bava’s best (though I believe Kill, Baby… Kill might be slightly better reviewed). However, the reason I picked this film is for one reason… Boris Karloff is in it! I love Karloff the Uncanny and will watch him in anything. However, this film today is a double edged sword, because the DVD in the Bava box is only the Italian original. Now, this is preferable from the standpoint that nothing is cut, however I miss out on Karloff’s wonderful voice. So, will I still like it? Let’s find out!

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
We open on the wraparound, Boris Karloff introducing the film, which has three stories. Already, I love the use of color from the first shot. I don’t know how I feel though about the guy doing Karloff’s voice. I kind of want him to do a Karloff impression in Italian, but I also don’t want it because it could ruin it. Oh, well, Karloff still mugs for the camera.
Karloff talks about drinking blood and the light on his face goes bright, blood red. Glorious.
Our first story is called The Telephone. Basically, a woman is constantly called on her phone, hearing no voice, at least thus far.
I had no idea Pronto meant Hello in Italian. I thought it meant hurry. Learn something new everyday.
The woman, Rosey, is now being harassed by a name who can clearly see her in a state of undress. He tells her he will kill her as he lusts for her.
So far, the suspense is being built very well. The cinematography is pretty solid, as well.
There’s a really cool shot of the villains eyes just barely peaking through the blinds of this apartment. The eyes remind me of a more creepy Marty Feldman.
The villain is Frank, Rosey’s former pimp, whom she helped send to jail. Rose ends up calling her friend Mary. Mary is very coy about coming over and you get a feeling she and Rosey might have had a relationship.
Oh, Jesus… it wasn’t Frank talking on the phone, it’s Mary doing a deep, husky voice into the phone through a muffled piece of cloth. That is a great reveal!
Mary is really good at being intimidating, yet weirdly comforting the Rosey, as she hasn’t revealed her true nature yet.
Mary proceeds to write Rosey a letter as she sleeps, telling her of what she did and asking for her forgiveness as Mary does love her. But as she writes it, the door quietly opens and a mysterious figure walks it. The silence and cinematography are breathtaking (it’s funny because Frank picks up one of Rosey’s nylons and strangles Mary with it). The way Bava built the suspense leading up to the murder was intense.
Frank walks slowly towards Rosey. Luckily, Mary hide a knife under Rosey’s pillow and she stabs him. Rose then breaks down crying as the phone remains off the hook.
I’ll tell you, the cinematography, the way Bava built suspense, and the sound are all really top notch in this one.
The next story is called The Wurdulak. That’s even the translated title. I looked it up and a Wurdulak is a type of vampire, so I’ll just say vampire from here on out. It’s also based on a story by AK Tolstoy. Karloff is actually in this one.
The story begins with Vladimir finding a headless body with a knife in it’s heart. He then rides to town to find shelter for the evening. I like how there’s no dialogue for the first 5 minutes or so. We only have sound effects and the wind blowing. It reminds me of how we only hear the sound of a clock ticking in the silence of The Telephone.
The lighting and the color is also really unique, with several gel filters over the lights.
In the house, Vladimir falls in love with Sdenka, the daughter of the house, but she will not return his love because her family might be cursed by a wurdulak.
A wurdulak it turns out is a vampire that thirsts most for the blood of those it loved while it was alive. Cool monster. You kill them by stabbing them in the heart.
The image of Gorca (Boris Karloff), slowly walking over the bridge to the house is just haunting. Also, when we first see Gorca’s face, it’s through a quick zoom. Very cool shot.
You know, the guy dubbing Karloff’s voice is actually doing a good job here. I’d still prefer to hear Karloff’s voice, but this is fine.
The firelight playing off Karloff’s facee is so rich with color and looks amazing.
Man, Karloff’s face when he pulls out the severed head… that man was a great actor.
Bava is beginning to have Karloff placed with some solid makeup on his faces, as well as purple colored light. Gives him a real deathly look.
Gorca now takes his young grandchild from his bed, having already bitten and killed another in the house. Gorca riding away with the boy is very intense. He’s wearing a furry hood that makes him look like some crazy, wild beast.
Vladimir convinces Sdenka to come away with him for her own safety, as he knows the wurdulak will come back for her and the rest of her family. I still hate the plot device of someone falling in love with another at first sight, but well, there you go.
Man, the light coming through the trees as Vladimir and Sdenka ride off is so cool. Plus the kid walking towards the parents house from the grave is creepy as hell. Especially because they gave his voice an echo.
So, the rest of her family dies to the wurdulak, but Sdenka and Vladimir drive in an abandoned monastery, fining a place to sleep for the night. Gorca shows up there, along with the rest of the now damned family. When this scene happens we’re met with a lot of color and Bava playing with negative space. They taste of Sdenka and she, in turn, drinks from Vladimir. Her eyes are hypnotic. Thus, the bloody prophecy is fulfilled. But keep in mind, Vladimir also has a family…
The final story is called A Drop of Water. During a large rainstorm, a nurse, Helen, is called to prepare a body for burial and- OH, JESUS! That is one creepy ass corpse.
So the dead woman was a medium who died while in the middle of a trance during a seance. While this is explained, we see a nice crane shot. There are a lot of good zooms in this particular story.
Throughout this whole thing so far, we know Helen is tempted to steal this sapphire ring from the dead woman. It’s a great bit of acting and storytelling. When she steals the ring, she also spills a glass of water, causing an incessant drip and a fly buzzes around. I have a feeling this will be a repeated thing throughout the rest of it.
Dammit, the corpse’s eyes keep opening and it’s one of the creepier this I can remember in a film. It’s giving me the jibblies.
Helen is now home with the stolen ring. I don’t think she’s going to enjoy it much. Sure enough that damn fly is back. I like that the camera goes into her perspective of trying to swat the fly. After the fly is scared off, a dripping sound is heard. Helen turns off all the faucets in her house, but the dripping continues. Great bit of playing with sound design.
This particular feature is all about the use of sound and the acting of the actress playing Helen. Bava still has his touch in the cinematography and directing, but it’s slightly more subtle here, though there’s still a great use of color throughout.
Helen opens the door of her bedroom and finds the body of the medium. We see the woman on the bed, in a rocking chair, and slowly gliding towards her hands outstretched. This honestly has me a bit freaked, but I think it’s the look of the woman. Her eyes never blink and her mouth is open in a rictus, teeth fully bared.
The… ghost?… corpse?… of the woman causes Helen to strangle herself. Damn, that’s a grim end. The ring is also mysteriously gone from her finger. But now her friend hears the dripping and a fly buzzing. She looks at Helen’s face and… Oh, God, now she’s got that rictus look on her face with the wide unblinking eyes. And Bava holds on that damn image. That is creepy as shit! Well, I guess I didn’t need to sleep tonight.
In one final scene, we see Karloff, in the guise of Gorca, saying goodbye and to watch out for vampires and ghosts on the way home. He then asks us to dream of him (sorry, Boris, but my dreams belong to creepy rictus lady tonight) as he “rides off into the distance.” Even though the horse is clearly fake and… they pull out to show to reveal he is on a film set and it’s all fake. I gotta say, that lighthearted ending does not fit at all with the rest of this horrifying film, particularly the closing theme.

Okay, so this was an amazing movie. Seriously, it tells three different stories, but manages to keep the stakes and tension very high. Each one had it’s own feel to it, though each was steeped in terror. The Telephone I think had the best sense of unease and feeling of suspense. The Wurdulak probably told the best story and had the best of all worlds, when it came to the technical aspects and acting. A Drop of Water is one of the creepiest and most terrifying films I’ve seen in a while, and I thought it would be the worst of the bunch. Really, there is no worst of the bunch and there’s no best. They are all marvelous. While each has it’s pluses, all three have some really nice cinematography and the colors, sound design, and level of anxiety are some of the best I can think of in a film in recent memory. See this movie! I’ll definitely check out more Bava soon.

Speaking of directors I said I’ll be watching more, I’m going to watch one more Jess Franco film. I’ve already said, I like early Franco, when he directed in black and white, had great cinematography, and was more subtle in his approach to sex and violence. But tomorrow, I’ll look at a later Franco film, Oasis of the Zombies. Does Franco’s style hold up? Who cares?!? Nazi Zombies tomorrow!

Fantasy Halloween Revival Theater

I made this a list on my letterboxd account, but I kind of want to take a moment to hit it up as an actual Motorbreath post like I feel something with this much care to it deserves. After all, I hope I’m not alone in having a couple of movies that are annual Halloween watches. Otherwise, I’m gonna feel pretty damn awkward and weird over it.

“You are programming an all-night Halloween horror-thon for your favorite old movie palace. What five movies make up your schedule?”

These words are the final question in Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rules’ Halloween survey and while I obviously answered this question before, I think it’s already pretty obvious that my opinions are always evolving and changing, which comes with growing as a person – hell, I suspect that the day will come when Blade Runner is not my top favorite movie anymore. And besides that, I obsess enough over making a good impression of cinema with people (I am the same dude who made TWO POSTS about ideal double features) that I would totally relish the idea of curating a Halloween night marathon, especially with a genre I love as much as horror.

Another thing that inspires me is the fact that my friends in the two-man 35mm revival miracle that is the Secret Celluloid Society will be putting together their own all-night horror movie marathon Up All Night (featuring The ThingNight of the Demons, Eraserhead, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) at the Coral Gables Art Cinema on Halloween night and if you live in or around Miami, you ought to come by and check it out. I’m probably going to have a couple of Halloween Quickies screen there as well, so you can actually jeer my work in real time. Order your tickets ($7 per movie) and stay up with us. It’ll be a blast.

But that’s all the shilling I’ll do now, as I get to the meat of this… what movies do I personally think embody the spirit of Halloween (or at least through watching them back-to-back-to-back on Halloween) to the point that I could arrange them into a marathon from 7 pm to 6 am and be proud even if it plays to an empty theater?

OK, so here’s the thing, though… even though SLIFR asks for five movies… I’m gonna be a little bit of a cheater and put technically six (or really five and one miniseries with every two episodes playing between movie), but defend this by stating that I totally looked at the running times of each selection and arrangement of order and figured how it could be at once feel like a narrative progression in a manner and how it all will still fit with even a couple of spare minutes before 6:00 am and the sun rises…

So leggo…

Over the Garden Wall (2014/crea. Patrick McHale/USA)

This miniseries on Cartoon Network was aired over five nights in the form of two 10 minute episodes each night. I really love it and I really think it fits the autumn mood so I feel it’d be a treat for the folks who really stick around all-night to have each two episode segment play right before each film. Especially great since I think the cartoon really works best with that span of time between its episodes.

Now this might not be feasible since in the end, you have an hour messed up. But it’d also give those 20-minute intervals as intermissions between movies for theatergoers to get fresh air and shit like that. Yeah…

I think this’d be great.

7:20 p.m. – Night of the Living Dead (1968/dir. George Romero/USA)

This one is absolutely due to sentiment and nostalgia from me. Night of the Living Dead is a never faltering choice to watch on Halloween. I’ve done it every year since ’10 and it’s still running strong in me here (but then again, it is a top 10 film for me).

It’s sort of as essential an appetizer as I could ever think of anything else. Partly because why not give the audience a huge muthafucking shot of paranoaic fear before diving into the main course. Partly because THIS movie to me is the single biggest landmark in horror cinema anywhere in its history or the world for going between atmospheric terror in the air around the characters and not much event and aggressive horror by having violence force itself on the screen for the viewers to witness.

And especially as the first feature because it begins in the daylight and slowly segues into the titular night. I mean, House (and possibly Sleepy Hollow and Nosferatu – I’d have to watch those again) begin in the day too, but it’s quaint to me to have Night just have itself at that cuff of dusk in its opening (featuring a graveyard which is a big damn yes for Halloween) and then slowly fading into us being shrouded in the darkness of night without us even realizing that it occurred, just as I felt I kept witnessing nightfall as a child… an invisible leaving of safety in light to the nocturnal unsettling silence.

9:20 p.m. – House (1977/dir. Obayashi Nobuhiko/Japan)

If you’re gonna have the crew stick around all night, you gotta have a party and House is crazy enough to bring that party and one. Return of the Living Dead could also do this, but it ain’t half the movie this is.

If you’re gonna have a Halloween flick, you gotta have a real motherfucking haunted house flick and House is maybe one of the finest haunted house films in existence (I’d say The Haunting and The Shining are in the running as well; House on Haunted Hill wouldn’t be a bad pick either but… it wouldn’t feel right unless I had a shitty falling apart skeleton entering at the climax).

Two slots filled thanks to Obayashi Nobuhiko and his daughter Chigumi’s crazy minds.

12:00 am – Halloween (1978/dir. John Carpenter/USA)

Because fucking duh…

FUCKING. DUH.

And particularly third in the slot so that it can be right at midnight that Michael Myers returns home.

2:00 am – Sleepy Hollow (1999/dir. Tim Burton/USA)

You say whatever the fuck you want about Tim Burton now, but I tell you hwat, he knows how to really make fall surround us in a visual sense. Or at least he use to be that kind of brilliant stylist. The mighty have fallen.

But Sleepy Hollow does stand as that film that warrant a tip of the hat for its very worthy return to the mythic lore of early spook stories to tell children, like a bedtime come to life in a most bloody fashion. It’s an essential Halloween fixture for me, the one that maybe actually feels like a dream without being in on it like House does.

And a movie as brisk and speedy and fluff as this one, with its overtones of detective story and Johnny Depp once again providing absent-minded frivolity and humor to the somber and grave tone that the rest of the cast very gamely puts on, it would definitely keep folks up and ready for more past midnight.

4:15 am – Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922/dir. F.W. Murnau/Germany)

Nosferatu is just something I really think a kick could be got out of seeing on a Halloween night. Unfortunately, I do feel it is quite a lot to demand from an audience by having them watch a silent film as their very last movie of the night, considering their potential fatigue by that time (especially one as painstakingly dedicated to adapting Stoker’s novel as to make it kind of slow). This is definitely the one I doubt most people will stick with,

But there is still a reason I made it last. While all these other films (except Halloween and Over the Garden Wall) end during the dusk, Nosferatu is the one that makes it MATTER – the way the sunlight shines out and the roosters crow rears Count Orlok for his final disappearance in the rays of hope after a night of death and terror. Hell of a considerable use of light from the master F.W. Murnau himself. Bow to him, bitches!

Some Honorable Mentions I Thought Long and Hard About:

Frankenstein (1910/prod. Thomas Edison/USA) – A short film that could fit, but I think I’m already pushing it with Over the Garden Wall.
Bride of Frankenstein (1935/dir. James Whale/USA)
House on Haunted Hill (1959/dir. William Castle/USA)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982/dir. Steven Spielberg/USA) – It is my favorite Halloween scene in a movie, if you must know the reasoning.
Suspiria (1977/dir. Dario Argento/Italy)
Alien (1979/dir. Ridley Scott/USA)
The Shining (1980/dir. Stanley Kubrick/USA)
Return of the Living Dead (1985/dir. Dan O’Bannon/USA)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993/dir. Henry Selick/USA)
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006/dir. Scott Glosserman/USA)
Trick ‘r’ Treat (2007/dir. Michael Dougherty/USA) – which I expect I’d have been tarred and feathered if I hadn’t at least mentioned it.
Beyond the Black Rainbow (2009/dir. Panos Cosmatos/Canada)

And that about ends my perfect idea of a Halloween Horror Movie Marathon. Have you guys any particular movies that pop into mind when you think about movies you’d watch on Halloween or like to show friends on Halloween? Any of these movies in my list turn ya off? Any of you enticed by that idea of Up All Night? Well, comment below with your opinions and I hope to see you all there Saturday Night!

Happy Halloween, sucka MCs.

Hail to the King, Baby!

What a world to be alive in when there are at least four versions of Army of Darkness. Count ’em, four of those fuckers! I’ve only seen three – the theatrical version which I own on DVD *ahem* in a special manner (I’ll get into it at the end of this review), Sam Raimi’s preferred director’s cut which I don’t own yet because I suck, and the television cut which is the first time I watched it on Sci-Fi sorry Syfy back when watching that channel wasn’t anywhere near punishing – but I also know of an international cut. And given that Army of Darkness is one of the most fun movies that has ever graced the earth, even if I still prefer its two predecessors in the Evil Dead series, that makes it a wonderful world when you could get a slightly different experience like Douglas Adams edited this movie rather than Raimi and Bob Murawski. If it were a perfect world, my preferred cut would be the first half of the director’s cut (which actually tightens up the crazy windmill scene where Ash deals with a bunch of mini versions of him in a manner only Ash could be excused for) up until Ash faces his evil version, the theatrical cut starting from his line “Good, bad, I’m the guy with the gun” (absent from the Director’s cut because even Raimi can be a fucking idiot) and go all the way down to the end, for reasons I will go into later on as well. But the world is wonderful enough where we have both. Maybe one day I’ll make an editing exercise of this, Soderbergh-style.

Still I dropped that bomb earlier about how, despite never ceasing my adoration for Army of Darkness as the one movie I am most likely to pop into my DVD player more than the other two films in my Blu-Ray player, I still consider those The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II the superior pictures. For one, those two previous movies actually still have that raw “we made this” sense to them that the studio production of Army of Darkness simply lacks… though Army of Darkness clearly eschews hiding that to embrace the fact that it is a great big adventure. It’s moving the adventures of Bruce Campbell’s Ashley J. Williams into a new fucking direction and it’s an absolute blast for that.

The other thing is that, maybe, as a result of Raimi and crew now having made into Hollywoodland and getting to make Army of Darkness there with that Universal Studios money, Army of Darkness‘s storytelling is less ambitious. It is not as dedicated to making a genre picture as its two predecessors (it is inarguably out of the horror genre – even the presence of living moving skeletons in the film is more Harryhausen tribute in swashbuckling adventure form rather than even the slightest effort at being spooky in even the obvious fun sense) and it’s less thematically sophisticated – taking basically the bare premise of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (as it’s obviously an unofficial adaptation of) and removing all Twain’s wit to make room for Raimi’s Three Stooges inspired slapstick sensibility. Which is fine, better you work with what you know than what you don’t know as well… nobody really likes Evil Dead II for its clever dialogue play, but because of Ash’s visual suffering.

Ash’s suffering has now taken a brand new turn here. He’s not stuck in one creepy wooden cabin anymore, but – as we last left him in the end of Evil Dead II – he and his Oldsmobile ARE still stuck somewhere he’d rather not be in. He’s in the Middle Ages, briefly enslaved in a misunderstanding yet still clear asshole move by Lord Arthur (Marcus Gilbert) until Ash is able to prove himself a bit more of a top dog than Arthur by killing two Deadites – the possessed undead creatures from the franchise – which have been giving our 14th Century boys a bit more trouble than they’ve wanted. The Wise Man (Ian Abercrombie) recognizes Ash through his “boomstick” and chainsaw as a prophesied hero who would “fall from the sky” to rid our Medieval fellas of their Deadite scourge, but of course Ash is reluctant to get involved in the quest to find the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis in the far end of the land and bring it back to them until The Wise Man also states that the book will of course be able to send Ash back to his own time and his deadbeat job at S-Mart that he misses so much.

And like that, after courting one of the beauties there (Embeth Davidtz) like he didn’t days before have to kill his old girlfriend, Ash is now off on his quest to save the day and get back home.

This is obviously the Ash show, even if we have a wider cast of characters now. Everybody is just moving out of Campbell’s way as he delivers annoyed, snarky sarcasm every single step he has to take, but with a newfound certainty and undertones of grizzledness to his fatigue that wasn’t in his hysterics during Evil Dead II (though the scene where he is stuck in a windmill with the night’s effects messing with him still harkening slightly back to the sort of torture he had to go through in the second film) that frankly make him… there’s no other word for it…. a badass. He’s totally rude (my favorite delivery of a line in this movie is a nearly unnoticeable throwaway: as he’s being congratulated by the peasants in his return, he is so done with this shit that he tells one of them off-hand “Get the fuck out of my face.”), he’s much more of an asshole than he ever was in the series, he totally thinks his life is bullshit at this point, but he’s also maybe the most badass here than he ever has been in the series. And Campbell’s ability to still make a character so blatantly dismissive yet charismatic as an adventure hero this time around promised great things for that show the following year The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. that only three people in the world watched (seriously, I’d recommend it).

And it’s not like Campbell doesn’t have a bunch of studio sets and big budget stuff to keep him in the moment anyway, as Raimi begins to expand his toybox of techniques he’s learned between the previous Darkman and here, to the continued effect of cartooniness from Evil Dead II (except in a more appropriate playing field now). Some are kind of easy to catch, like the superimposition used for the mini Ashes scene, but they’re all really bubbly and the artificiality of it is only a minor annoyance. I can’t get mad at catching the claymation bones of a villain as he has a thrilling swordfight with someone. I can’t get too angry at Raimi’s camera movement trying to hide the fact that Ash’s final Oldsmobile battle rig isn’t moving when just the introduction of the thing in the fighting zone is bombastic enough to get me going “Yeah!”. That ending battle between the knights and the undead is chaotic and everywhere and I love it all the more for that, especially when it can still make clear the stakes and location of all the major players. The movie takes care of just the bare minimum of what it needs to and you can either enjoy the ride or take a hike. It’s not that long anyway, it’s a brisk 81 minutes, so stop your whining.

Of course, unlike The Evil Dead or even Evil Dead IIArmy of Darkness is so light and frothy that we never once have the idea that anything will go wrong and Ash will fail. So I don’t feel I’m spoiling anything by pointing out the biggest major difference between the theatrical cut and the Director’s cut which is their endings. In both versions, Ash drinks a potion the Wise Man makes him to have him sleep through time, but in the Director’s Cut, Ash drinks one drop too many and ends up waking in an apocalyptic future rather than the time he came from. It definitely is more in line with both Twain’s novel and how the Evil Dead movies before it ended with their own “Ash is still in deeper shit” moment, but I can’t say I’m fonder of this ending that what Universal mandated for their American release of the film.

Which is Ash getting back to his time just fine and suddenly saving the day again from a Deadite at S-Mart with all the confidence and cockiness a hero needs to make a battle against a demon seem like an effortless inconvenience. It maintains the humor, the grandeur (hell, it translates it and transforms the mundanity of an suburban department store into a fucking battleground), and of course, the badassery that makes me absolutely love the movie entirely. Every line Ash has here is a quip and we just keep loving him more and more. I wish it wasn’t edited and shot in a discontinuous manner that felt like Raimi was begrudged to make this ending (the Deadite never really gets a final blow so much as just dies). But it’s still totally awesome and the movie ending on any other note than Ash having just reholstered his shotgun, telling a girl to “Hail to the King, Baby!”, and making out with her would have been an outright tragedy, I don’t care how dark the Director’s Cut ending would have been.

It’s way too good to be King.

And of course, a King Campbell was in my eyes. I hadn’t seen Evil Dead II yet in high school and obviously his performance in The Evil Dead was too bland and cookie-cutter to be stand-out, so it is his Army of Darkness performance that really made the guy shine in my eyes making him my favorite actor as a teenager as I kept watching a movie or tv show that would be on the air if he even had the smallest appearance (bad move since that meant I sat through The Love BugMcHale’s Navy, Man with the Screaming Brain, etc. the poor guy’s been in a lot of stinkers) and always having a blast to see him on-screen no matter what he was doing.

So back to the manner in which I own the DVD. Well, since I live in Miami for a while where Burn Notice was filmed, my mom found out they were filming right outside her workplace, so I talked my way out of work that day, arranged to meet with my friend there, snuck on set and well…

Photo on 10-27-15 at 4.39 AM #2

Hail to the King, Baby!