Friday, October 19, 2012

October Horror 2012: V/H/S

V/H/S is a recently released found footage horror anthology with segments written and directed by: David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, the directing team Radio Silence. The framing story was written and directed by Adam Wingard.  Again, expect spoilers, but I'll try to spoiler tag the juiciest bits.

The framing story is titled "Tape 56" and centers around a group of professional hoodlums who tape themselves committing various crimes like destroying lights and windows at an empty building or tearing off a woman's shirt and filming her boobs.  I think one of them was also taping himself having sex with his girlfriend but the other activities are taped over it.  They get hired by an unknown person to break into an empty house and steal a specific VHS tape.  Each other story is a tape found in the collection at the house.

Amateur Night
This segment is about 3 guys who've purchased a set of eyeglass with a hidden camera in the frames with the intention of filming themselves having sex with women they bring to their hotel room from nearby clubs.  Most of the short is filled with the lead guy being an absolute jackass and all 3 of them getting really really drunk.  Eventually they get back to their room with 2 girls, one of which looks a little weird and only ever says "I like you" to the cameraman.  The lead guy tries stripping one of the girls, but she passes out and his friends convince him not to have sex with her while she's unconscious.  So he decides to have sex with the weird looking girl while she constantly reaches for the cameraman trying to involve him.  He's too wasted from all the drinking and drugs so he goes to the bathroom while the 3rd friend strips naked and tries to initiate the threesome.  While in the bathroom the girl goes crazy and starts ripping into the leader.  The cameraman and the naked 3rd wheel try to escape but she kills nudie during the chase.  The cameraman's hand is injured and the girl is revealed to be a succubus.  She still likes the cameraman and tries to seduce him, but he's too afraid to get it up.  In a rage, she sprouts wings and flies away with him.  This short was a bit weak, I thought, because the 3 guys were absolute assholes.  Unlikable in every way.

Second Honeymoon
The next short, directed by Ti West, is the only short that doesn't involve a supernatural element.  The segment follows a hipster couple as they travel out west for their honeymoon.  There's a forshadowing fortune telling scene and an implication of a creepy character being introduced off camera.  While the couple sleeps on their first night, an unknown person sneaks into the room and wanders around with the camera.  They pull the covers off the wife and stroke her skin with a switchblade, then empties the husband's wallet, drops his toothbrush in the toilet and leaves.  This builds a lot of mistrust as the husband accuses the wife of stealing the money.  They have some stilted moments and then enjoy some time at a canyon.  The person sneaks into the room again, this time stabbing the husband in the neck.  The film cuts shortly then returns to a short shot of the wife and an unknown woman making out in the mirror, before she asks the new girl if she erased the camera.  I like Ti West and this short is pretty tense and decent.  However, it really feels like nothing happened because of Ti's signature snail-like pacing.  He also didn't have enough time to give his characters the depth he normally does.  Good show, but it stumbles.

Tuesday the 17th
This obvious play on Friday the 13th was directed by Glenn McQuaid who also directed I Sell the Dead.  The story centers around a group of friends who travel to a cabin in the woods to do the typical things.  There are some nicely creepy flashes of mutilated bodies in the footage while they tour the woods.  Out of freaking nowhere the "nice girl" starts talking about horrible things that happened.  The typical initial kills, sex offers, reveal of understanding are kindof awkward because of the tight timeframe.  The killer is actually kindof cool, he's like the love-child of Jason and Slenderman.  A supernatural slasher who uses knives but can only be seen as heavy distortions on camera.  Despite the awkward bits, I enjoyed this part as well.

The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger
This story happens entirely in webcam chats between a girl who inexplicably flashes her boobs and her boyfriend who is away at medical school.  Emily is showing off her new apartment but is complaining about strange things that go bump in the night.  Despite not believing her, the boyfriend eventually sees odd things happen on her webcam behind her.  Eventually she comes up with a plan to use him to guide her through her apartment with her eyes closed so she can try to talk to the spirit-children we've been seeing without being scared.  A few moments later she does see the children, and they attack her knocking her unconscious.  The boyfriend miraculously enters the apartment just a few seconds later and flips Emily over while the ghost kids watch.  He makes an incision in her back and removes a small alien-looking fetus thing.  He asks the ghosts how many more of those he'll have to remove from her before they stop growing back, then punches her in the face and breaks her arm.  The camera cuts to them on webcam again with her arm in a cast, telling her boyfriend about how a doctor diagnosed her with mild schizophrenia which explained the children she saw and why she ran in front of a car without remembering.  They hang up the webcam and after a short moment we see another girl on webcam with the same boyfriend.  She also flashes her boobs inexplicably.  This is probably my favorite short of the movie.  It's a little mind-bending and the scares are delivered wonderfully.

The final short is 4 guys who go to a Halloween party at someone's house only to find it empty.  Undeterred they wander around the house in costume looking for people or beer.  There are a few brief flashes of some sort of ghostly figure, but nothing that the characters react to.  Eventually they make it to the attic where a few hicks are trying to either exorcise or assault a woman in a nightgown.  The friends flee and make it to the door before deciding they can't not doing anything and run upstairs to save the girl.  During this bit all sorts of crazy things manifest in the house: stacked chairs, crows, projectile vases, etc.  The group makes it out with the girl and into car.  They drive away and make it a decent distance before a strange fog envelopes the car.  The girl vanishes and appears outside of the car.  The poor bros have rescued a demon or demon-possessed girl.  This short is bananas, but really fun to watch.

We now return to the framing story, which has randomly flashed in between the shorts.  During the story a supposedly deceased man in a chair had vanished from the chair.  He's undead or something and has been picking off the other criminals, and finally chases down the leader of the group.

This is a really good movie.  Some of the shorts are a little awkward, but the concept is decent and there are some standouts in Second Honeymoon, Sick Emily Thing etc, and 10/31/98.

More anthologies coming up: Trick 'R Treat

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October Horror 2012: Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror

I was not expecting much here, but this movie is actually surprisingly well put together.  Yeah, some of the acting is hammy, but it's good with its mythology and its stories have a good central theme.  The production is definitely passable.

The movie starts with a short animated sequence in which Devon, voiced by Snoop Dogg, is involved in a gang shootout during which his sister is shot and killed.  It's a strong possibility he fired the shot that killed her.  A demon named Liore offers him the chance to save his sister's life by killing himself and giving his soul to Liore.  In exchange, Liore also makes Devon a Hound of Hell: a pimp demon with the ability to offer people the choice to damn themselves or save their souls.  Snoop now appears in person and gives a short tour of hell, involving a puking midget demon.

Crossed Out
A tagger named Posie is haunted by the gang-related deaths of her parents.  After interfering with two thugs trying to make unwanted advances on a girl, she spars verbally with the leader then sprays him in the face and runs away.  She's abducted by a mysterious hobo played by Danny Trejo who drugs her and gives her a totally bitchin' skeletal tattoo on her arm.  This tattoo gives her the power to kill by tagging over people's names.  After crossing out the tag of the thug who chased her the other day, she overhears news of his untimely death and realizes she was the cause.  Drunk on power, she begins crossing out the tags of his entire band of thugs.  There's a short montage while she gleefully takes out a swarm of low level street scum.  However, after a time she begins tagging her own name and Danny appears to tell her she abused her power instead of using it to break the cycle of violence in the city.  He strips the tattoo from her and raises some of the recently deceased gang members from the dead.  They kill her, spraying her brains along a wall.  The spatter is later revealed as a beautiful painting of flowers and Snoop reappears to admire the mural with Danny before taking Posie's soul.

The Scumlord
This story concerns a bigoted white trash Texan named Tex and his trophy wife.  Tex's father ran a retirement house for 4 black war veterans whom he had served with, where he treated them with respect and friendship.  The elder Tex included a provision in his will that his son would have to live with the vets for one year so that they could teach him honor and respect before getting his inheritance.  After moving in, Tex and his wife harass and defraud the elderly veterans, led by Ernie Hudson, with the intention that they'll move out leaving him the property to flip and resell at a profit.  Unwilling to report Tex to the VA since they'll be split up, they comply with his demands.  Eventually the money he's stolen from the vets causes them to begin starving and become unable to afford their medications.  When Tex eventually kills the friendly maid/cook, the veterans decide it's their duty to retaliate.  Hudson beats Tex to death while the wife dies in a freak accident.  The veterans inherit the elder Tex's fortune and the wife's yap-yap dog, so they celebrate.  Snoop reappears and informs them that he's their new landlord before he drags off Tex's soul while the puking midget hauls off the wife.

Rapsody Askew
The final story is about a rapper, SOD, who begs God for a chance to spread His word if God just helps him gain fame.  Immediately outside of the church he meets Quon, who had just broken a window with a ball, and they instantly become partners.  Flash forward and the rapper is cleaning house at an awards show following the tragic shooting death of Quon.  During an after party he's trapped by a mysterious woman played by Lin Shaye who removes the door to the room.  She then begins to replay his life for him, culminating in the death of his friend.  A zombiefied Quon then enters the room carrying another tape, showing another perspective on the crime revealing SOD was wearing a bulletproof vest and had orchestrated the assassination with the help of his bodyguard.  Quon was constantly trying to keep SOD's ego in check and keep him from ruining his career or his life with senseless crime and hard drugs.  Even turning down a solo career to keep the team together.  The bodyguard appears as a hysteric SOD tries to tell him Quon is in the room, but he doesn't see Quon.  After the bodyguard reiterates his crime, the deceased MC then grabs two knives and shoves them into his eyes.  As SOD picks up the knives and tries to attack the undead Quon with them, two girls open the door and see SOD standing over the dead body.  The woman offers him a choice: stay in the room, go to prison for murder or leave the room and go out in a blaze of glory.  SOD grabs the bodyguard's gun and commits suicide by cop.  Snoop then appears and takes his soul to hell along with the two Texans and Posie.

I actually really liked this movie.  It's pretty dark and gruesome, with decent effects, but there's a light-hearted swagger lent to it by the tone of the framing story and some of the writing during each story's climax.  Posie's story is probably the weakest because of its timeframe.  Rapsody Askew is probably the best.  Scumlord is decent but the characterization of Tex and his wife is beyond caricature.  I understand it's done for a reason, but it's so over-the-top you have no sympathy for them at all while Posie and SOD felt more like real people done in by their own flaws.

Anyway, anthologies continues with: Campfire Tales.

Monday, October 15, 2012

October Horror 2012: Sinister

This movie didn't make the official list this year, but the previews looked really good and the festival circuit enjoyed it so we went out to a theater to see it.  Aside from a pretty vapid middle aged housewife who insisted on narrating everything that was happening on screen to her husband, who tried valiantly to make her stop, the audience was very good.

Sinister's plot centers around a true-crime writer, Ellison Oswald (Ethan Hawke) and his family, who move into a house in rural Pennsylvania while Ellison researches and writes his next novel.  Ellison has been in a bit of slump since his breakthrough hit "Kentucky Blood" and hopes his next book will put him back on top so he can retire and his family can live happily ever after. Soon, he finds a box of super 8 reels and a small projector labelled "Home Movies".  Each tape is titled with some innocuous phrase like "backyard BBQ" or "pool party", but they contain recordings of brutal family murders where the method of execution is a pun on the title.  As he watches these tapes to uncover the mystery, weirder and weirder things keep happening to him and his family.

Ellison is having a really tough time of the whole thing even outside of the haunting because his family is so absurdly antagonized by the nature of Ellison's work, they've instituted a set of strict rules involving his office which they joke about.  They have a son who suffers from sleep-walking and night terrors and a pretty normal seeming daughter who really enjoys painting, but prefers walls to canvas.  All indications are Ellison is a man who is, for all his want of money, devoted to his family and committed to keeping them safe.  Which makes it really odd that his wife constantly gives him crap over his choice of genre.  She has a tendency to support him one moment while using the same breath to deliver an ultimatum.  Aside from that issue the characters are all pretty real feeling which helps this sort of movie.

The movie itself is directed by Scott Derrickson who also directed The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which is one of my all-time favorite movies.

Sinister, I think, is probably going to be one of the better new releases this year.  It's respectful of the audience in the way that no characters really ever show up to spell out exactly what the backstory of anyone is or what the latest discovery in the central mystery is.  The conversations feel very natural, like people actually talking about things they know instead of exposition via As-You-Know-Bob.  They expect that if you've been following along you're intelligent enough to make the same breakthrough as the characters are at any step along the way.  It's also very deliberate and Insidious-like in the way it approaches its scares.  While it's heavy on jump scares they have psychological weight to them and the movie builds to them slowly and deliberately.  Another thing that's really good in here is the lack of false scares.  They will have situations where the movie is building tension and then appears to reveal something, but it's not done with a soundtrack punctuation or quick editing so the build up isn't broken and the fake out has just served to get you on edge expecting the scare.

The super 8 tapes are a really good use of traditional found footage, incorporated into a narrative instead of the whole movie being "found".  Another bit that I really liked about it was the way they used a super 8-like feel during the supernatural scenes, where the frames stutter and skip slightly like they're being played back on an old reel-to-reel, sort of blurring the lines somewhat as the demon pulled the family closer to his world.

This movie is really good.  I wish it was as good as Insidious, and while it doesn't go totally off the rails in the 3rd act like Insidious did it's not quite as good in the bits before that which keep it from hitting that level, but it is solid and very scary.

October Horror 2012: Creepshow

Creepshow is a classic 1982 horror film in the anthology style. The stories were written by Stephen King and everything was directed by George Romero. They use the Creepshow comic as a framing device and even use comic panels as transitions, it's pretty cute. None of this is particularly suspenseful, but you should expect spoilers.

The framing story is really simple, it's a kid gets caught reading the Creepshow comicbook which his father disapproves of. He throws it out "with the rest of the trash". As the page blows open, the panels animate and we see the title card for the first story.

Father's Day
The story starts in the parlor of mansion where an older woman, a young woman and her husband, and her faaaaabulous brother are waiting for Bedelia, the family matriarch, to arrive so they can celebrate father's day. They tell the story of her father, a miserable old bastard who emotionally abused her all her life. The rumor was that she had enough of it and bashed the old man's head in several years ago while he was demanding his father's day cake. She arrives in full-on Boss style: barreling down in a luxury car, smoking a huge cigar and swigging straight out of a bottle of Jim Beam. She checks in then goes to visit the gravestone. After spilling her whiskey, the zombiefied corpse of her father breaks through the surface and goes on a murder spree demanding cake. The short ends pretty quickly after this when the grandfather presents his "cake" to the young woman and her faaaabulous brother.

The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill
Starring Stephen King himself as Jordy, this story takes obvious inspiration from Lovecraft's "The Colour of Outer Space". A meteorite crashes in a dimwitted farmer's yard, and he decides he could sell it to the local college to pay off a bank loan he recently took out. He tries to cool it with water, which cracks it and makes it ooze a strange goo. He picks up the pieces and puts them in a bucket then goes inside to watch TV. Over the course of the night mysterious bright green alien vegetation grows at an alarming rate over anything that has touched the meteorite, or anything that has touched anything that's touched the vegetation or the meteorite. Jordy eventually becomes completely covered by the growth and pleads with God before shooting himself as the radio makes a highly ironic announcement. Stephen King is absolutely HILARIOUS as Jordy, and the whole short has these really comical dream sequences as Jordy imagines encounters with college professors and doctors (both played by the same person). It's one of the more fantastic bits, but it's short and really funny.

Something to Tide You Over
A horror short with Ted Danson and Leslie Nielsen? No way this can be scary! Ted Danson is in his swank bathrobe when Leslie appears and demands entrance to his apartment to talk. You see, Leslie plays Richard, the husband of the woman Ted's Harry is having an affair with. Richard plays as completely insane. He jokes, threatens, makes odd references, and generally has a great time while kidnapping Harry and driving him to the beach that he owns. I don't want to give away too much because I really enjoyed it.  Nielsen is amazing as the wealthy psychopath.  He's funny, charming, and absolutely nuts.

The Crate
This story is a bit odd.  One of the main characters is an utter bitch of a wife played by Adrienne Barbeau and her meek husband who constantly fantasizes about killing her.  The story starts at a party where she's really drunk and making an ass of herself while her husband tries to hide from her and speak with a friend of his from the local college.  The friend gets a call from the college from a janitor who found a box under a stairwell from an expedition over 180 years ago and leaves to check it out.  He and the janitor take the box to a lab and open it, at which point some weird beast attacks and eats the janitor.  The professor runs into the hallway to tell someone else and get help.  The person he finds doesn't believe him and then the thing eats him too.  He phones up the husband, and babbles the whole story to him.  The poor man decides this will be a great way to dispose of his wife and concocts a plan, that despite some minor glitches goes off quite well. At least until the *DUN DUN DUUNNNN*

They're Creeping Up On You!
This story is probably the most dull, but is also kindof disgusting. It's about a ruthless and wealthy businessman who lives in a hermetically sealed suite in a NYC high rise. During the story he deals with an increasingly numerous and impractical cockroach infestation. He fields business calls, and spends many of them threatening people and generally being a deplorable human being until the infestation is too much. At which point he retreats to a super-sealed panic room in a mad craze. He's overcome by an absurd amount of roaches before the end of the night and when the exterminator he's been yelling at people to get finally shows up, he can't answer.

The framing story wraps up with the comic book being picked up in the morning by the garbage man who flips through it and decides to read some of it, but is disappointed the voodoo doll has already been sent out for. Then it moves to the family where the father is at the table for breakfast, still mad at the son. Then he clutches at himself and screams in pain as we see the son, with the voodoo doll.

I'm concerned with my ability to keep write-ups of this length, but I'll try at least a few more times.
Tomorrow's movie is: Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror

Sunday, October 14, 2012

October Horror 2012: The Signal

The Signal is really pretty interesting.  It was written and directed by David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry and released in 2007 for Sundance.  The movie is actually broken into three "chapters" of a continuing story, where each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character which brings about a radical shift in genre.  This does make a nice segue into Anthology week.

The basic setup is that Mya is having an affair and wakes up with Ben (her lover) to weird looking TV static.  They're so invested in each other they ignore it.  This is the Signal, an unexplained broadcast that turns normal people into violent psychopaths.  She returns home to her husband Lewis, who is jealous because he knows she's cheating.  Lewis and his friends are arguing about the TV static interfering with some sports game before Lewis snaps and beats one of his friends to death with a baseball bat.  Mya flees and hides overnight in a closet, listening to her CD player.  This seems to be her main defense against the Signal: she's constantly shutting everything out and listening to her walkman.  After she wakes up the first chapter begins.

Crazy In Love
The first chapter is a play on the slasher genre, complete with a hilariously gnarly looking weapon and an abductor who's immune to pain.  Mya escapes him by crashing her car and running away, passing the narrative to Clark, who was outside at the time and offered to help her.  This is amusing, and kindof tense.

The Jealousy Monster
The narrative passes briefly to Anna, who is setting up a New Year's Eve party despite having just murdered her husband in self-defense.  Clark comes over and tries to calm her and hides the body.  Shortly after, Lewis shows up, on the trail of Mya and the story takes a turn for the awkward as Lewis...and Clark...try to play party with Anna.  This is where characters start hallucinating a lot making it much harder to tell for sure what exactly is going on.  Does the Signal give people powers?  Does it make them nuts or does it just make them see everyone else as nuts?  This is probably the funniest bit, but it's really dark.  Lewis eventually snaps and tortures Anna to death before Clark reveals where Mya has gone.  Ben appears and knocks Lewis out, escaping with Clark and following Mya.

Escape From Terminus
After some brief flashbacks showing Ben's progression over the last 2 chapters, we shift to him and Clark convincing each other of their sanity and discussing the nature of the Signal.  Clark wraps his head in tin foil.  They arrive at the train station to discover Lewis has beaten them there and strapped Mya to a chair directly in front of the Signal.  This bit is the shortest part of the story so it's hard to discuss the overarching developments without giving away how the movie ends.

Suffice to say, it's suitably mind-bending after the hallucinations and questioning of the characters' sanity.

Overall the movie is brisk, darkly witty, and violent.  It's really satisfying to watch because it keeps hitting great beats and then quickly moving on to a different mood somehow managing to not seem schizophrenic.  The way the narrative follows the characters is very fun, and lends a certain amount of non-linearity keeps it from feeling too breakneck.  But it's kept in check so you never really lose where you are in the story.

It's a pretty great close to internet week.

Tomorrow the marathon moves on to Anthologies, starting with the 1982 classic: Creepshow.

I'm going to try to follow this format of giving brief synopsis of the framing story, followed by a quick overview of each short and then final impressions.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

October Horror 2012: Kairo

Kairo (also known as Pulse) is a 2001 Japanese horror movie about a web cam site that promises visitors interactions with the dead.  It was remade in 2006 as the American film Pulse.

Kairo is possibly one of the most serious movies we've seen this year.  The movie is very slowly paced and almost 2 hours long.  There are a lot of lingering shots, and the color palette is really muted.  It feels like it was filmed in the 70s, using fashions and computers from the 90s.  It's also really creepy, if more than a bit confusing.  For most of the film the view switches between 2 unrelated stories of people being affected by what's going on, which seems to be a city being slowly depopulated via mass suicides that don't leave traces.  There's one thread that follows the staff at a greenhouse discovering the website after their techie friend commits suicide, and a 2nd one following a modern Luddite who spontaneously uncovers his keyboard and connects to the internet, stumbling upon the site for some reason I can't really remember.  It just sort of happened.

What's impressive is that the movie is almost entirely bereft of special effects, presenting its ghosts as mostly people in shadow in the corner and using clever editing to make ghosts vanish into black stains on walls.  It raises a lot of questions about if you're seeing the ghost, the person before fading away, or a hallucination of some sort as the character is initially unwilling to accept the death.  It's incredibly creepy without really using a single scare, shock, or death.

It does falter a little bit because the plot is really hard to follow, I don't know if that's a virtue of the plot itself or just my missing something in the subtitles.  I wouldn't mind a dub of this movie at all, I think it might help comprehension.

This is probably something that should be analyzed in much greater depth, but unfortunately I don't have a lot of time with the October marathon schedule.  I may revisit this later and probably do some comparisons of it with the remake Pulse, which I also enjoyed, but it's a very different kind of film.

Anyway, internet week comes to a close with The Signal.

Friday, October 12, 2012

October Horror 2012: Devour

Devour is a 2005 horror movie directed by David Winkler, who unfortunately bears no relation to Henry.  It stars Jensen Ackles and Dominique Swain, probably best known for Supernatural and Lolita, respectively.

The movie is about Jake Grey, a pretty upright seeming kid who's stuck in a small town filled with morally tanked and bored delinquents.  However, he's been plagued his whole life by ultra-real visions of torture, murder, and self-mutilation.  One night at a party his friends introduce him to an online game called "The Pathway".  When playing the game, players get phone calls from an unknown voice telling them to do specific acts ranging from sex, to vandalism, to violence, promising good fortune and power.

After some of his friends die while playing, Jake uncovers that "The Pathway" is a front for a devil worshipping cult that killed his mother.  The cult is using the game to try to find someone, probably him.

The movie itself has bits where it's maybe over-stylized, but overall it's pretty sharp.  The characters aren't terrible, but a bit flat and hammy.  The movie shines in its visuals and scenarios.  It's pretty imaginative in its setups, and the shooting and editing makes it all feel really fresh.  It's got a lot of good stuff that's disturbing and uncomfortable without going too far and becoming ridiculous.  The story isn't particularly impressive and I did zone out a bit towards the end, but for the most part I enjoyed it.  There's a lot in there about facing fear, or facing temptation or the devil, but it's mostly window dressing to support its style.  It's just deep and open ended enough to not be a complete wash but it has no illusions of grandeur.  It's good.

Internet week continues with: Kairo, the original inspiration for Pulse (which I mention briefly in the 2009 overview).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October Horror 2012: Chain Letter

Chain Letter is a movie.  Ok, seriously.  Chain Letter is a 2010 horror movie written by Diana Erwin, Michael J. Pagin, and Deon Taylor.  Also directed by Deon Taylor.

The movie is about a group of friends in a highly technological suburb who inadvertently attract the attention of a serial killer that determines his victims by seeing who fails to forward a chain letter.  He also kills all his victims using chains.

The story is a bit silly, but the characters and acting are alright.  We dislike who we're supposed to dislike, we're suspicious of who we're supposed to be suspicious of, etc.  Unfortunately the characters who are supposed to be long-lived enough that we're supposed to root for aren't very well developed so it feels bit flat.  Also, I'm not entirely sold on Keith David as the heroic cop figure.

The kill scenes are mostly creative and always very gruesome, which plays in the favor of this sort of movie.  I do like that they illustrate sometimes the killer having to haul his victim elsewhere to make the kill because the original location where he abducted the teen wouldn't do.

There is an oddly heavy-handed social message about the faith we place in telecommunications, which given that this is an election season comes off as political and makes me reflexively dislike it.  The movie's so obvious about it in the beginning and during a few moments with Brad Dourif's character, but aside from that they're pretty calm about the whole thing which is nice.  The overall ideas are somewhat interesting, but I didn't realize the true nature of the killer until reading the wikipedia page on the movie which made the last act of the movie feel like it was leaving something out.

Non-linear story telling is used to surprisingly entertaining affect to connect the opening of the movie to the final scene, but there are a few steps to set that scene up that are a bit contrived.

While I imagine the movie doesn't have much to offer repeat viewings it's entertaining enough as a stock slasher with a technological twist to serve the first time through.

Tomorrow, internet week continues with Devour.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October Horror 2012: Hellraiser: Hellworld

Hellraiser: Hellworld is the last movie of the original Hellraiser continuity, released in 2005 before they rebooted the series with Hellraiser: Revelations.

The movie is set in a world where the Hellraiser series existed, and they made an MMORPG out of it.  A kid named Adam got obsessed with the game and crafted a replica of the Lament Configuration puzzle box used in the series to summon the Cenobites.  He then digs a large hole in his basement, presumably to bury the box, but then lights himself on fire and dies.  Two years after his funeral, his friends have all gotten cooler and the "pretty" one has stopped playing the game entirely.  The ones who are still playing discovered a "secret" in the game that allowed them to solve a virtual Lament Configuration for an invitation to a super-secret invite-only Hellworld party hosted by Lance Henriksen.

They go to the party, which is filled with the expect drunken sex debauchery and then shit goes totally south as they split up.  There are a few OH SNAP twists, but the ending feels a little unsatisfying.  Some of the kills are fun, but a lot are just throw-aways.  There are even a few good mind-fuck scenes for a direct-to-dvd sequel.

The movie has token references to Hellraiser that while they could have done without, lends a certain aesthetic and mythology that really helped elevate it above a pretty flat horror mystery.  The fact that we all know the mythology lets them play a little bit with the question of whether the legend is real or is it just a game.  It's fun.

There are definitely worse movies in the series and Revelations was way crappier.  Hellworld is entertaining enough to watch once or twice, the twists are OK and not too crazy.  It's better than a lot of direct-to-dvd horror so it gets a solid "not bad".

Next up: Chain Letter.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October Horror 2012: .com for murder

.com for murder is terribad.  Let's just get that out of the way:  This is one of the worst movies I have ever watched.  The only things that kept me from stopping midway through was that I wasn't expecting much to begin with and it was on the list for this month's marathon.

So .com for murder is a 2001 internet/crime/thriller written and directed by Nico Mastorakis and starring Nastassja Kinski, Roger Daltrey, and Nicollette Sheridan.  Though, realistically I noticed Huey Lewis and Melinda Clarke more.  Roger Daltrey is barely in the movie and the other two I didn't recognize at all.

Nastassja is presumably Roger Daltrey's wife and inexplicably in a leg cast.  They have some chit-chat where he proves he's the MAN and insults the entire female gender as being technologically inept, then leaves for a business trip.  The wife is left alone with her sister to take care of her since she's in a cast, and immediately guesses the password to Daltrey's internet account and hops on an erotic chat room.  She hits on a girl that seems like she knows the screen name and then trolls some guy who is doing stuff in the room no one else can do.

This guy, woah, this guy.  In his intro scene he is: Butt nekkid in a dark room with a huge TV-monitor, watching naked dancers blue-screened onto fire backgrounds.  He's wearing a beanie, and has a ring painted around one eye.  He's using a wireless keyboard that glows and has these little lights velcro'd to his fingers.  He spends the entire movie quoting angst-ridden poetry, apparently from Faust.  His only motivation to kill is for revenge since he thinks Daltrey's character had trolled him, and then curls up in his HUGE bathtub and cries.

The whole thing is non-sensical and character motivations are bizarre.  The technology in the movie has absolutely no resemblance to anything that has ever existed.  In one scene the killer is signed off and there are just low flames animating on his screen, I jokingly said "That must be his FIRE WALL, OHHHHH!"  However, I was right and the screen was labeled "Firewall active".  Literally the worst pun I could think of was what the writers decided to go with.  It's just silly, poorly conceived, nonsense.  Maybe Internet week was a poor choice.

ONWARD!  To Hellworld!

Monday, October 8, 2012

October Horror 2012: feardotcom have to say that I actually forgot to write this for several days after watching the movie, it really sort of washed over me.
feardotcom was directed by William Malone and release by Warner Brothers in 2002.  It stars Stephen Dorff, Jeffrey Combs, and Natascha McElhone.  There's a brief cameo by Udo Kier in the very beginning of the movie.

The movie itself is about a NYC cop (Dorff) teaming up with a Health Dept. Officer (McElhone) to uncover the cause behind a seemingly unrelated string of 4 deaths.  I don't recall why the health department was involved, I think it was because of the black eyes on all 4 victims, but I don't exactly recall.

It turns out they all died exactly 48 hours after visiting a website, "".  I'm serious.  At the time they made the movie they wanted to purchase the website "", which was owned by someone else who refused to sell.  So they went ahead and made the movie anyway, but this led to some confused branding where you'd see "", "", etc.  The website is the webcam site of a serial killer known as "The Doctor" who tortures his victims until they beg to die.  But sometimes it's possessed by an alluring woman asking visitors if they want to hurt her, then tells them they're lying and demands they find her.

The movie is visually creative, but nothing hits.  So you think it's cool while you're watching things but then forget exactly what had happened.  The actors seem really disinterested, so none of the characters provide any emotional engagement.  It's a pity because it looks interesting, but is too dull to resonate.  The thing feels really similar to 2008's Untracable, except with a supernatural element and much weaker mystery.

A pretty unfortunate way to start internet week, but I wasn't expecting much.  Horror doesn't usually seem to get technology.  Anyway, we continue tomorrow with: .com For Murder.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October Horror 2012: In the Mouth of Madness

So we are a few days behind but tonight we watched John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness and most of 2007's Cthulhu.

In the Mouth of Madness was released in 1994 and based on a screenplay written by Michael De Luca.  It's got a pretty stellar class including Sam Neill, J├╝rgen Prochnow, David Warner, Charlton Heston and Frances Bay.  This is the only movie this week that's not directly based on a Lovecraft story, but is a completely original screenplay.  Obviously it's heavily influenced by Lovecraft's work, but oddly doesn't have a lot to do with H.P.'s At the Mountains of Madness aside from some token mentions of Shoggoths.  It's got more in common with The Shadow over Innsmouth.

It's a what-if story that deals with 2 major points:  What if H.P. Lovecraft was a contemporary author, hugely popular in the 90s?  And what if stories have the power to become real if enough people believe in the reality?

The movie once again uses the framing device of having the story told in flashback while John Trent (Sam Neill) narrates the events to Dr. Wrenn (David Warner).  Trent is a freelance insurance investigator, which seems to be an oddly specific form of private detective, who is hired to track down the missing author Sutter Cane. Cane is some sort of modernized version of Lovecraft himself, possibly with a dash of Stephen King thrown in for good measure.  He sets most of his stories in a fictionalized New England town and writes about indescribable other-worldly horrors.  There's an added wrinkle that his books are rumored to be so deranged they actually make some people go mad.

The publishing company needs Trent to find Cane's latest manuscript because the book is due out soon and they've already started to market it.  The story is called In the Mouth of Madness...oh, hey, I see what you did there!  Trent manages to find a clue in Cane's cover art, leading him to a small town which seems to be a real-life manifestation of Hobb's End, the town from his stories.  Hobb's End is another common fictional town used by several authors in several stories, very similar to Lovecraft's Arkham. There's a nice mashup of insanity, hallucinations, sea creatures along with the meta aspect of meeting the author of the story with the same name as the movie.  The ending is wonderfully meta.

The soundtrack was a little odd.  Carpenter's usually involved with the music in his own movies but the soundtracks in his 70s and 80s movies were a lot more fitting, once he hit the 90s he started featuring rock guitars.  It fit decently in Ghosts of Mars, since that movie was really action-oriented.  In this movie it just feels a little awkward.

The creature effects were better in The Resurrected, so this movie kindof fails to scare with those.  It does have some good camera work, but the narrative is what's creepy here.  It's unsettling, but only if you think about from the perspective of Trent's character.  Even if you can't get into his skin, the movie is still fun because it is a great what-if story.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

October Horror 2012: Re-animator

Re-animator is the 1985 cult classic H.P. Lovecraft adaptation directed by Stuart Gordon, who went on to direct a lot more Lovecraft adaptations based on the success of this.  The movie is loosely based on Herbert West: Re-Animator and stars Jeffrey Combs in the lead role.

The original story was published in 6 parts in Weird Tales magazine, and maintains both of Lovecraft's hallmarks of the use of a framing story and of having the timeframe last several years.  The movie departs from this by using a highly compressed timeframe of days, maybe weeks, and also telling the story with more a traditional 3rd person dramatic narrative.  The story is also the first Lovecraft story to use the location of Miskatonic University.

The movie itself is an amazing exercise in pure 80's horror cheese.  The acting is hilariously over the top and the soundtrack is almost cartoony.  It was a lot of fun to watch, not being particularly scary or even disturbing.  It felt a lot like The Evil Dead movies, but maybe a little more restrained.  Gordon doesn't spray fake blood out of a firehose at people like Sam Raimi enjoys doing, but he definitely showers the set and actors in lots of strangely colored liquids.  The movie is also a lot more perverted than anything from The Evil Dead.  Some of what happens is downright nasty, but the movie sprints by almost gleefully.

The special effects are almost impressive for the time, but do look pretty weird and fake.  I think it's by design, though.  The movie revels in that odd sense of humor that calls attention to how corny everything is, but it's also got a massive sick streak.  Well worth the watch.

Coming up, we close out Lovecraft week with John Carpenter's In The Mouth of Madness.

Friday, October 5, 2012

October Horror 2012: Cthulhu

Cthulhu, released in 2007 and directed by Dan Gildark is a vague adaptation of The Shadow over Innsmouth.  Their use of a gay protagonist is often discussed, but thankfully the film doesn't entirely hinge on it.  It's just a point.

The story is moved from Innsmouth to a small coastal town in Washington state called Rivermouth and begins when Russel Marsh receives a phone call informing him of his mother's death.  He's now living on the East coast with his partner, but drives home to attend to funeral and help his father put her affairs in order.

While there he spontaneously shaves his head, gets involved in uncovering a deep secret about his family, rekindles some old relationships, and gets drugged by Tori Spelling.  It's a bit weird.

I liked the movie, the 1st and 3rd acts where both really good.  It was disturbed, kindof creepy, mysterious, and uncomfortable.  The psychology was good, the imagery was fantastic, and everything going on was pretty interesting.  I guess it had a cliff hanger ending but the action building up to it was fun.

The 2nd act was where I wasn't enjoying myself.  It was weird in all the wrong ways.  Mainly the amount of time spent with Tori Spelling character was too damn high, and it was monumentally awkward because her and her wheelchair-bound husband effectively date rape Russel so that they could have a child.  I understand that the fact the he's a Marsh and needs to have a child for the good of the cult, which most of the town are members of, but it just seemed really out of place and tasteless for a movie that for the most part was being really even and real about how a gay man might be treated when returning to his conservative and highly religious small town home. Yes, it's a religion based around Deep Ones and immortal half-breeds, but still a religion.

It was a good movie, I liked it, but that middle bit was just a bit off-putting.

Lovecraft week draws one step closer to its inevitable end, but before that comes the classic Reanimator.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

October Horror 2012: The Call of Cthulhu

Alright, this one's a bit odd.  It's a black & white silent movie based on the story of the same name, released in 2005 and produced by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society.  They call the filming style "Mythoscope" which is a blend of traditional and modern filming techniques that produces a film which very much adheres to the aesthetic of a movie from the 20s or 30s while still respecting certain modern sensibilities.

As such we have a lot of static cameras, but a few moving shots.  What's funny is the static shots feel appropriate and refined but a lot of others that technically look better seem amateurish and out of place, like someone's home movie.

From what I can tell it's also the most accurate to the original story, aside from a few minor changes which do seem like they would make it easier to hook the narrative or make certain scenes easier to film. As an example, according to wikipedia the original story had the Alert crewed by cultists which would have required another scene with many many extras so they made it that the Alert was abandoned which required no additional cast members.  Basically the sort of rigid adherence to the source material you'd expect from a group calling themselves the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society.

Beyond that I can't really judge anything because the movie is so far out of my realm of experience.  It moved pretty briskly, and the music was nice.  More dramatic than the silly scores I usually imagine going with silent movies.  It was fun to watch...but it's really not my thing.

Tomorrow will be the 2007 Cthulhu, based on The Shadow Over Innsmouth.  It will probably be the most "artistic" thing yet.

October Horror 2012: The Resurrected

The Resurrected (aka Shatterbrain) is a 1992 direct to video horror movie directed by Dan O'Bannon, who's only previous directing credit was 1984's Return of The Living Dead.  He'd also written the screenplay for Screamers and Total Recall and created characters for Alien.  The movie starred Chris Sarandon, John Terry, and Jane Sibbett.  It was based on The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, which Lovecraft actually wrote immediately prior to The Colour of Outer Space.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this one.  I wasn't sure what to expect since it was early 90's VHS release, but the movie was really good.  It was tense, had a pretty compelling story, was decently acted, and had better effects than some movies I've seen that came out last year.  The movie also seems to fit the pace of the original story the best, and may have actually extend the story.  They've borrowed the framing device that Lovecraft is fond of and the story is told to the audience by someone else after-the-fact, often resulting in multiple levels of flashback.

Oddly, for as much as they seemed to respect the source material they changed the name of the narrator from Marinus Bicknell Willett to John March and changed his occupation from family doctor to private detective hired by Ward's estranged wife.  I don't actually fault the movie here because it was a convincing angle and enabled them to add a few fun support characters.

The movie has token nods to Lovecraft's Cosmic mythology, but the horror elements here are the result of a person accessing an unnatural power.  There aren't really far-reaching ramifications, there's no manipulation by unseen forces, just a power-mad alchemist discovering a secret to prolonging his life and even returning from the dead with a hunger for blood and super-human strength that almost makes him vampiric.

The mystery is tense and twists naturally, but the effects are stand-out.  They really had some nasty looking blood and gore effects and a lot of a super-gross creature effects.  It lent a lot of good creepiness and tension, especially to a certain underground scene involving a matchbook.

This was pretty much great.  I think this is the strongest movie of the season so far and so far the only one that was actually scary in the traditional sense.  The age on the first two movies this year made them a bit campy.

Tomorrow we watch the 2005 silent Call of Cthulhu from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October Horror 2012: Die, Monster, Die!

Die, Monster, Die! is the 2nd entry in Lovecraft week.  It was released in 1965 and was directed by Daniel Haller who would also go on to direct The Dunwich Horror in 5 years.  This stars Boris Karloff, Suzan Farmer, and Nick Adams.

The movie is loosely based on Lovecraft's The Colour of Outer Space, which was his attempt to create a truly alien outer space creature.  However, aside from the crashing of a meteor that strangely affects life, the movie is very different.  The original story is the second hand account from Ammi Pierce of what happened to the "blasted heath", an area outside Arkham where a metorite had landed years ago.  The metorite was examined, but no one could explain its effect on the nearby vegetation.  The media seeps globs of "Colour" that eventually drive a nearby family insane while eroding the vegetation into grey dust and tainting the water.  The family goes missing one-by-one before Pierce shows up with several other men only to discover everyone is dead as the "Colour" and the metorite leave the planet.  This also takes place over years.

The movie is significantly quickened, and most of the cast are inventions.  Some of the family members are loosely based on their equivalents in the story, but the names are changed.  They've also created a romantic plot between the Ammi-clone and a member of the family.

So while these changes are a little disheartening and detracts a lot from the Lovecraftian spirit, it's still a pretty good movie.  It plays a lot like a great 50s-60s style ghost story with a mysterious secret and a figure in black stalking the woods.  It was actually really fun to watch.  Some of the character motivations and behaviors are a little strange in the beginning, but when cool stuff starts to happen it doesn't really matter.

As far as faith to the source material this is probably the weaker of the two, but it was actually a more entertaining movie.

Next up: The Resurrected, sometimes known as Shatterbrain.

October horror 2012: The Dunwich Horror (1970)

We begin H.P. Lovecraft week with The Dunwich Horror, released in the first few weeks of 1970.  It was directed by Daniel Haller and starred Dean Stockwell and Sandra Dee.  It also involved the Michael Fox who forced Michael J. Fox to use the J, which is kindof cool.  The movie itself is an adaptation of the Lovecraft story of the same name, written by Curtis Hanson, Henry Rosenbaum, and Ronald Silkosky.

The story is only loosely based on Lovecraft's short, some of the major differences being the timeframe that it takes place during and the Nancy character.  The original story unfolds over the course of several years, while the film is covered in less than a week.  Also, Sandra Dee's character doesn't exist in the original at all.

The core concept, however, has remained intact.  That is that Wilbur Whateley (Dean Stockwell) wants to "procure" a copy of The Necronomicon from the Miskatonic University library so that he can summon the Outer God: Yog-Sothoth, one of the Old Ones.  Since this is Lovecraft week, this is going to come up a lot.  The Old Ones were a race of other-dimensional beings that are coterminous with our space-time continuum.  There's a lot to suggest the Old Ones were also the gods of various ancient poly-theistic religions.  The mythology suggests they ruled the earth before the ages of men and are now trapped outside our universe, having been overthrown and all but destroyed by the shoggoths, a slave race of their own creation.  Now that I type it out it also sounds a lot like the Goa'uld from Stargate.  Moving on.

The cult imagery they use is kindof a hodge-podge of early Meso-American and Egyptian symbols, which seemed very unfocused because it was largely treated as dressing.  Lovecraft is all about this sort of magic, where words and symbols have mighty power and simple drawings can drive people mad.  So this seems like a missed opportunity to make the images actually symbolize something.

It's disheartening that the actual Dunwich Horror has become a B-plot in its own movie, with the mysterious entity sequestered in the Whately house being referenced visually only a handful of times and barely ever during dialog.  When it eventually escapes it racks up maybe 2 casualties before straight up vanishing, presumably during the climax at the end of the movie.  Its origins remain the same as the story but there is so little focus on it that it almost doesn't make sense its included at all.

In the film, everything that happens is the direct result of human action.  In the story, like most of Lovecraft's cannon, humanity is just along for the ride.  Wilbur is killed in the original during a pretty chance encounter, so there is no ceremony.  In the film the ceremony is an easily relatable and tangible thing that Armitage has to stop in order to save the day.  In the story, the thing to be stopped is an invisible monster that explodes out of the Whateley house to rampage across the countryside where it terrorizes the locales for several days before being killed by Armitage and several others from Miskatonic University.  So the Horror, the evil, was not called immediately by a human in a way that killing the human would stop it.  It is worth pointing out that this is one of the few Lovecraft works where a human manages to stop the monster, possibly because this is just a purely terrestrial creature with possible cosmic parentage, not an Elder God itself...or even a cult.

It's a fun movie that seems to nod strongly to Lovecraft while trying to update his pacing to something much more brisk.  Although, to be totally honest they may have moved things along a bit too quickly since it feels like something is always happening which prevents anything from having weight.  The summoning ceremony, which seems to have been basically invented for the movie, fits really well into the story.  However, it does make the climax seem really strange, since it basically consists of Armitage and Whateley shouting gibberish at each other until Whateley spontaneously combusts and falls of a cliff.  It's so early in the 70s, it really seems like it should be considered a 60s movie and the animated title sequence and cheese theme-music reinforce that.  Though one of the things I found really interesting was when the composer was making the contemporary theme music go off-kilter with theremin and merging it with the generically "exotic" theme they've been using as the cult theme.

Tomorrow: Lovecraft week returns with Die, Monster, Die! also directed by Daniel Haller and based on the Lovecraft short story The Colour of Outer Space.

Monday, October 1, 2012

October Horror 2012 Movie List

We're back to October once again, so horror movies are back in season.  And! My apartment decorations are finally appropriate again.

So we've made our list, checked it Se7en times, or 666, or whatever.

Anyway, as is tradition we've split October into 4 weeks, each with an oddly specific theme.

This year we've got:
  • H.P. Lovecraft adaptations - Anything obviously Lovecraftian or directly inspired by a story by Lovecraft.
  • Internet Horror - Any movie where a computer game or the internet is a major plot point.
  • Anthologies - Mostly just an excuse to watch Trick 'R Treat again, also V/H/S due to Ti West's involvement.
  • Stephen King adaptations - Any movie based on a story by Stephen King.

First on the list, kicking off Lovecraft week and going up in a few hours is going to be the 1970 "The Dunwich Horror".