And lastly, dearly departed...
In writing these reviews a lot of movies got tossed to the curb. This isn't the definitive list of the scariest movies of all time (Attack of the Killer Klowns would have precluded that notion entirely).
No, this was a list more of Halloween movies I watched to get into the Halloween spirit, I guess.
I could have just followed the oh-so-many already made lists that have the Shining (I thought it was boring), or the Exorcist (I fell asleep the first time I watched it at age 11), or Psycho (creepy, but it didn't scare me), Alien (interesting, but too penis-y), ad naseum.
This was a way to pass time and ferret out those little tricks and treats that make us jump.
So with this in mind I chose to do two movies for my final review: Fallen with Denzel Washington, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers with Kevin McCarthy.
Fallen is the tale of a cop (Denzel) who has just solved a high profile serial killers case and sent him to the death chair. The paranormal begins to slip through when it seems that the killer is loose, and begins to taunt Denzel and his family.
When I saw this movie in the theater many years ago, I think the best reaction to a movie (barring the emotional outburst of two grown men, myself included, yelling at Transformers 2 for killing Optimus), I have ever seen; a Hells Angel turned to his girlfriend and yelled "Don't ever f*cking touch me again", all because of the movie he just watched.
Also, it has the creepiest use of a Rolling Stones song.
This movie definitely has the paces right, and you care about the characters, even Denzel's seemingly handicapped brother and nephew. They are poignant, innocent people just trying to get through life, and it is ruined.
I give it five bottles of Purell out of five.
Next: Invasion of the Body-Snatchers. The premise has seeped into our culture so deeply that I almost don't want to explain the plot, but here goes. An alien organism is replacing people with exact physical duplicates, but that are emotionless beings set on taking over the world. Simple enough, wouldn't you say?
Many different variations of this movie have been made, the most recent being with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, to the teen themes Faculty by Robert Rodriguez, and even a Bugs Bunny short film.
The Original is still the best (ain’t it always the way?).
The film plays against our own fears. The fear of losing autonomy, the fear of knowing the truth but being perceived as mad or insane, the fear that the people we are looking at and think we know for years are hiding something sinister.
In today’s world with 3D and high definition, I doubt anyone will watch this old black and white anymore. Heck, even the remakes get little or no attention, what with all the zombie movies. But it is a movie seriously worth checking out. I mean, in 1993, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". So it has to have a redeeming quality that stands the test of time, right?
Thank you to all who read my reviews, even as they got longer and longer. When Christmas hits, maybe I'll do a top ten leading up to Christmas Day of all my favorite holiday movies.
I still have one review to go, but here's the ones I posted, earliest top to last bottom:
1. In celebration of All Hallow's Eve I will attempt to watch a different horror movie every night.
Tonight's cinematic monsterpiece was: Killer Klowns from Outer Space. If you enjoyed Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, you might enjoy this little stinkburger. The acting is eceptionally cheesy and the klowns look both awful in terms of fright factor as well as camp factor, but there are some genuine laughs here. I give it three cement pies to the crotch out of five.
2. Monster Movie Review (Or Moview) #2: Willard (2003). This is a tale about a mentally abused shut in who works at his father's business, and realizes he has the power to control rats. He then uses these rats to exact revenge. What's interesting in this movie is the love triangle that develope's between Willard, his pet albino rat, and the big sewer rat. Willard loves albino, sewer loves Willard, willard loves sewers power but hates sewer, etc. It is all rather creepy and the only thing that doesn't make it totally devolve into utter camp is Crispin Glovers' commitment to the role. I give it three mousers out of five. (ninja turtle reference, don't know why...)
3. Tonight's scare-view is Midnight Meat Train, based on the short story by Clive Barker.
If you're a fan of gore you'll appreciate this splat-tacular film about a photographer who stalks a serial killer on a subway. Bradly Cooper starts to have visions and nightmares where he identifies with the killer, and it all leads up to a very strange twisted ending involving a conspiracy. What pulls you in is Coopers commitment to the role, and the feeling that, given the situation, you too would try to stop a killer. I give it four tenderloin steaks out of five.
Tomorrow: Fright Night or Thinner (unless anyone has any suggestions. I was going to do Jennifer's Body, but I'm too scared of Megan Fox's acting).
4. I decided to review the Thing, even though I sat through Thinner. Thinner has some great campy scare moments, but I ultimately thought it wasn't scary enough for a halloween review, even though Killer Klowns is in no way scary.
The Thing, 1982, by John Carpenter.
the Thing has all the right elements: insanity from isolation, paranoia, shock. In it, Kurt Russel plays a pilot at a U.S. science outpost with a population of 10, that loses communication with it's Norwegian counterpart. A lone dog seems to be the only survivor, as the rest of the crew have either been killed or committed suicide, and the dog is adopted by the crew of the outpost. Things start to go a little wonky after the U.S. crew finds a two-faced humanoid creature in a block of ice amidst the ruins. What follows is a game of "can I trust you", as it seems an alien that is able to assimilate the D.N.A. of anything around it and imitate it right down to the memory.
At the begining of the 80's there was a trend that almost overtook action: that of the sensitive, caring action man. Carpenter was sick of movies where men didn't act like men. So, the only female he had in the movie was a computer, all the actors were bearded and rugged, and emotions were left out. Compare this to the remake/prequel where the lead is a woman.
I give this film 4 and a half chest-bursters out of 5.
5. Tonight's terror review: The Mist: a military experiment goes wrong, forcing a small town to band together against a hideous threat.
Let's start with the difference between a thriller and a horror. Thrillers have jumps and possibly a laugh here and there: Nightmare on Elm Street and the Scream movies are in there, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Horror sustains terror through mood, like Bela Lugosi in Dracula. Horror doesn't have as much gore and depends on stringing the audience along, perturbing them long after the movie is over.
Like the Mist (which I highly recommend watching in black and white. It actually makes it a little more intense, but "young people don't like black and white" according to the director, who wanted to release it that way and filmed it with that in mind).
The Mist has the classic, drive-in sensibilities that the old horror movies had, and the ending leaves most people horrified and suicidal in some cases (so I've heard). Which is kind of ironic, since King wrote the screenplay as a way of decrying the concepts of euthanasia.
Want a movie that will leave you psychologically damaged with the last two minutes? Watch the Mist.
I give it three bullets out of four.
6. Trick 'r Treat. What can I say? This movie got pushed under the rug when it came out, and I don't know why. It begins with little Sam (Samhain) going trick or treating, and from there the story cross-pollinates characters and carries four stories and how they interconnect over Halloween night. Sometimes bloody, downright creepy, with inflections of Tales From the Crypt and twists on old horror themes (the helpless virgin, the cranky old neighbor, etc), this movie delivers!
In it there are four basic rules that, of course, get broken: wear a costume, hand out treats, never blow out a jack-o-lantern, always check your candy.
How these rules are exploited are very interesting. I will include the trailer. Everyone see this movie. I give it four razorblades out of five candy-bars.
7. Frailty, with Matthew McConaughey and Bill Paxton. It's hard to throw this one into the Halloween mix, but it fits most of the criteria. The main being the feeling that when you finish watching you seriously reconsider some fundamental things.
Frailty is about two boys growing up under a caring and devoted father. A father who also thinks God wants him to kill demons. Demons that look, act, and talk like normal people. He takes his sons on these kills as a way to train them to be demon hunters as well. All of this is told by the son who is now an adult, confessing to an FBI agent.
What makes the creepy factor high is how normal the father is. He genuinely loves his sons, and wants them to be good people, who are honest and don't lie or cheat.
You never really know if the movie wants you to accept that, yes, these people are demons, or no, this guy is bat-sh*t crazy.
What makes this movie terrifying is the questions it raises: What if the crazy religious people are right? If God came down and told you to kill, would or could you? A good friend of mine asked "If God told you to kill me, would you?" I answered, "I don't serve that God, but I would miss you very much".
The visuals and viscera in this movie is done very well. Gore is never too far over the top to be ludicrous, and the Father's "heavenly visions" are carefully balanced for the viewer to decide if its true, or a seizure.
I give this movie five shallow graves in the rose garden out of five.
8. I confess I never saw the Blair Witch Project. It never really seemed like an interesting concept, even when they originally marketed it as an actual documentary. And the best thing about it's sequel is that you don't need to watch the original. They give you a recap about how it was put out as real, and acts as foreshadowing which makes the sequel actually very interesting. Especially with the clips of local police kicking people out of the woods yelling about how there is no Blair Witch.
I chose this movie because many don't like it because the original was purported to be real and turned out to be fake, and resented how it was filmed (shaky hand-helds, blurriness, whihc would be exactly what it would look like when filmed by amatures), and also because of Paranormal Activity. Blair was legally forced to come out and say it was a film and not a documentary, due to advertising laws. Paranormal somehow worked around this with clever advertising and misleading dialogue. Like cleaners use with "virtually spotless". Either glass is spotless or its not. That's what "spotless" means.
I digress. What makes Blair 2 scary, or at least in the horror genre is its overall suspense. They mix fact and fiction in an attempt at this. Owning the fact that the original was a fake, and the hysteria it caused is a great idea, but doesn't come off well. What does work is the pacing and odd camera work. This is one of the first independent films that used the "shudder walk". It wasn't a new idea (Tales from the Crypt used it, Candyman, too), but for me, that shudderwalk is creepy as hell.
The film also has the cliche moments or Evil Dead references: the cabin in the woods, the only bridge out of town, young people, etc.
The movie starts off light making complaints about the first film, slightly mocking Wiccans by making them as preachy as Christians, gets really dark, and loses it toward the end. Like all horror movies though, it must be watched in the dark, late at night, with others. Critics (of whom I hope I may count myself, sort of) often take notes during a film, pulling themselves out of the movie in order to "take stock". When they should be asking after the movie is over, "was I scared?"
When I saw this movie in theaters, I did jump a few times and was creeped out. Like in Paranormal, the most disturbing part of the movie was the woman standing over her boyfriend for two hours. In Blair it was being stuck in a bed while something that looked human but didn't move human shuddered its way to you. These weren't even the climaxes of the film, and sometimes the greates scares are the little things.
I believe a film should be critiqued partly based on the laws that it establishes at the begining, and whether it cheats. Zombieland took this literally, and when it did "cheat", it was actually a reveal of a greater human truth (Don't be a hero became Fight for the one you love, or Nut up and shut up).
Blair does this. It sets up the rules: the first was fake, this is a re-enactment, does our perception of events alter truth (and does this cause mass hysteria or mob mentality)? It may become unbelievable at points, but it doesn't cheat.
I give Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows two sequels out of five.
9. Hey kids? Do you like Degrassi Jr. High? Do you like Were-Wolves? Do you like thinly veiled coming of age, lycanthropic/menstrual overtones in your movies? Supernatural STD's (sort of. Apparently, werewolfism can be passed by sex, too)? Then look no further than this Canadian made horror film: Ginger Snaps.
Like the title infers, Ginger is the one who snaps, having been infected with (which is more correct?) lycanthropy/werewolfism after being attacked.
The rest of the movie is a almost after-school-special-esque dealing of a girl coming into womanhood. And turning into bloodthirsty killer.
Since her period comes around the same time as the full moon, would you call this monsteruation?
Like all good horror, suspense is maintained throughout the film, with the added emotional character developments playing out nicely: Ginger's sister Brigitte must deal with her sister's physical change, as well as their personal relationship.
I give this movie four out of four maxipads.
New Ghostbusters Movie
So the new Ghostbusters movie is underway. Originally I thought it would be interesting for Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) to play a ghost in the third installment, have Egon and Stanz be researchers at a Paranormal Research Center, and have Oscar (the baby from the second film) play a new recruit who seems to have some sort of paranormal magnetism that is unknown to even himself.
Looks like that may be the actual storyline, so for me, I am happy. Third installments of films rarely do well, and I really want this one to be better than the second. I still enjoyed the second, but it wasn't as exciting as the first.
Looking forward to it!
I self published my novel on Amazon. Here's the link.
Working on my new novel, titled: Stain Glass Memory.
Why "Failed Daily"?
Because I fail to update daily.