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15 More Non-Horror Movies For Horror Fans

August 19th, 2016 · 5 Comments

A while ago, yours truly and MEEP of CINEMA DUMEEP did a post called 40 Non-Horror Flicks for Horror Fans (HERE). I always swore we’d do a sequel because it was such a fun subject but we never did. Truth is, I suffer from a debilitating disorder called sheer laziness so I avoided the idea of tackling 40 more movies like the plague. But now I figured out a cure! Why don’t I just do 15 at a time!? How hard is that? So here ya go! Here’s 15 MORE Non-Horror Movies for Horror Fans!

MULHOLAND DRIVE (2001)
I got some mild grief for not including DAVID LYNCHin our last list but I swear I thought he went without saying! Everybody knows DAVID LYNCH is a horror-happy mo-fo. His output of material that can bitch slap your very soul is legendary. Allow me to put MULHOLLAND DRIVE up here to represent ALL of LYNCH’s work. There are moments in this movie that are ten times scarier than entire horror franchises put together and I’m not even remotely kidding. After taking to task the heartless Hollywood dream-machine, this psycho-tsunami also rips into rubble nearly every brick in the wall that separates fluffy wishful delusion and screaming, rotting reality. If I should ever neglect to mention LYNCH again, please note that it may be due to my sanity’s desire to protect itself and allow me to remain blissfully in denial.

BARTON FINK (1991)
The big question here is how did I miss this Kafka-esque COEN BROTHERS nightmare in our first list? Luckily JON GOODMAN’s excellent recent turn in 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE reminded me of this here magnificent portrait of steadily decreasing mental health. I’ve always felt that BARTON pairs up incredibly well with our pal CRONENBERG’s NAKED LUNCH! Both movies feature the incomparable JUDY DAVIS, interchangeable wardrobes and luscious decrepit wallpaper! Oh boy, I’ve sufficiently sold just such a double feature to my own self!

STREETS OF FIRE (1984)
Every horror fan worth their salt is a fan of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and rightly so. But do you know what makes a fine companion to EFNY, even perhaps more so than the flick’s legit sequel ESCAPE FROM L.A.? I say, STREETS OF FIRE! Think about it, both jams contain gruff rebel tough guys of few words who must navigate a dangerous and dilapidated urban environment to rescue someone while accumulated a rag tag group of eccentric allies along the way. Furthermore both movies showcase musical numbers! Watch ‘em back to back; you’ll see what I mean.

JOHNNY HANDSOME (1989)
Back in the day MICKEY ROURKE was my favorite actor and in this film he stars with a bunch of my other favorite actors like LANCE HENRIKSEN, ELIZABETH McGOVERN, MORGAN FREEMAN, FOREST WHITAKER and the worship-worthy ELLEN BARKIN. ROURKE plays a facially deformed gangster who gets a brand new mug and sets out for revenge on those who double-crossed him. Like many a horror flick, JOHNNY HANDSOME concerns itself with the anguish felt by those who don’t fit in and the cathartic thrill experienced when they find retribution against the forces that alienate them. This fine film comes courtesy of the great WALTER HILL, the same guy responsible for the aforementioned STREETS OF FIRE. If he’s not a household name in your house, you live in a dump!

SECRET CEREMONY (1968)
I’ll never forget the day back when I was in college when I turned on my TV and randomly found this hauntingly bizarre movie I’d somehow never heard of. Obviously I had to skip all of my morning classes to see how things worked out. In this psychological nesting flick a child-like waif (MIA FARROW) pretends an opportunistic prostitute (ELIZABETH TAYLOR) is her long lost mother while her sleazy stepfather (ROBERT MITCHUM) threatens to tear their fantasy playhouse down. It’s not exactly action packed but it’s gloomy and goth-y enough to weave a spell. Many people find this flick to be a campy howler but as usual I genuinely love it and have no idea what they are talking about.

UNDER THE SKIN (2013)
I see you A24! I’m on to you and your sneaky mission to make me feel as square as an Amish grandmother at a Damien Hirst exhibit. It just so happens I’m artsier than you think! Luckily I was still spinning from A24’s more recent abstruse opus THE WITCH when I checked out UNDER THE SKIN so that I was ever so slightly prepared for its too clever ways. Both flicks play with being frustratingly pretentious, lull you to near boredom and then slam with you with something you’ll never forget. There’s at least one scene in UNDER THE SKIN that sent a lightning bolt of ice down my poor spine. I know I shouldn’t like SCARLETT JOHANSSON because she’s so popular but I just do and I always will. She takes chances and then there’s that voice. Anyway, I double dare you to watch this in a double feature with XTRO (1983).

IN HER SKIN (2009)
As long as we’re on the subject of films with SKIN in the title, remember this one from Australia? I sure do. The damned thing is based on a true story and it worked the miracle of somehow plunging my faith in humanity to a new impossible low. The sad thing is that when I think of this movie I can never remember the title because it’s frustratingly vague and vaporous to the point of nonexistence. They should have just called it “Caroline” after the crazy lunatic main character! Please read my fuller review HERE and only watch this if you want to be truly disturbed.

INSTITUTE BENJAMENTA (1996)
I’m at a loss for words when it comes to this movie. I used to play it over and over again at the video store I worked at and so I must have seen it a zillion times but I’m still not sure what happens in it. I guess the plot is not the point anyway. It’s like opening a dark closet stuffed with morose emotions that come crashing down on top of you in slow motion. The soundtrack is the saddest thing in the world and paired up with the ethereal beauty of ALICE KRIGE, it’s almost too much. If you can’t find this, find anything created by THE BROTHERS QUAY. They are geniuses.

WALKING AND TALKING (1996) and MY MOTHER IS A WEREWOLF (1989)

I’m including these two not because there is anything remotely scary about them but because they both feature characters that horror fans can relate to! W&T is from director Nicole Holofcener and it stars CATHERINE KEENER as Amelia, a tightly wound woman who is adjusting to the upcoming marriage of her best friend. The cool thing is that Amelia spends a lot of time at the local video a store and dates a clerk named Bill (KEVIN CORRIGAN) who ends up being a Fangoria –loving horror fanatic. On their first date he even takes her to a horror convention where they view awesome effects created for BASKETCASE 2 (or 3?). The comedy MY MOTHER IS A WEREWOLF is probably less of a stretch for our horror loving readers because not only does it concern lycanthropy but it also features ELM STREET alum, JOHN SAXON. Better still the film’s young heroine’s best friend Stacie is played by FRIDAY THE 13th PART 7’s Maddy aka DIANA BARROWS. Like W&T’s Bill, Stacie is a huge horror hound who drags her pal to a convention and those with an eye for details are sure to find lots of cool horror related stuff lurking in the background.

BLADE RUNNER (1982)
I know I hardly need to bend over backwards to convince film fans about the plentiful merits of BLADE RUNNER but I’d like to point out how horror-lovers especially will feel right at home with its themes. I mean, the plight of the film’s man-made replicants to come to terms with their mortality and to confront their maker’s vanity spurred cruelty is right on par with the perils of Frankenstein’s creation. Truly, as much as folks try to complicate the matter, the processing of one’s inevitable death is the meat and potatoes of horror; everything else is garnish. It doesn’t hurt that BLADE RUNNER is often caught skipping rope with both ALIEN (they hang in a seemingly shared universe) and THE SHINING (JOE TURKEL plays an uncannily similar enigmatic character in both films and the theatrical cut of BLADE closes with extra footage from THE SHINING’s angel’s-eye view opening credits).

SPACE TRUCKERS (1996)
Let’s say we stick with sci-fi for a moment! If I happen to be the only person in the universe with a soft spot for SPACE TRUCKERS, I am absolutely OK with that. Although why any horror fan would ever choose to miss a STUART (RE-ANIMATOR) GORDON flick is beyond me. Sci-fi comedies are almost always a fun time and I’m thinking this one is good enough to double feature with THE ICE PIRATES! You get DENNIS HOPPER, STEPHEN DORFF, DEBI MAZAR, ALIEN 3‘s CHARLES DANCE and even some square space pigs! The CGI is dated but the physical effects stand up and I like how it all feels like a lost HEAVY METAL comic.

FIVE CORNERS (1987)
This is such a great film and I’m guessing the only reason it has fallen into the cracks is because it’s so difficult to categorize. It doesn’t help that audiences sometimes have a problem following multiple storylines and digesting dark themes and quirky humor at the same time. JOHN TURTORRO plays a recently released stalking psychopath named Heinz and ever-reliable JODIE FOSTER is the rightfully worried object of his obsession. Heinz’s interactions with his loopy head in the clouds mother are sad and chilling at the same time and keep an eye out for scene-stealing horror royalty ELIZABETH BERRIDGE of THE FUNHOUSE as a wacky glue-sniffing party girl.



BADLANDS
(1973)
In the comment section of our previous 40 NON-HORROR FLICKS post I promised to include two titles if ever we did a sequel and this is the first of the two! Look kids, life is not complete until you see TERRENCE MALICK’s take on the legendary murder spree of Charles Starkweather starring the impeccably cast MARTIN SHEEN and SISSY SPACEK. This movie is so beautiful and poetic you may have to put a post-it-note on your TV to remind you that something horrible is taking place.

THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN (1982)
This is the second film I promised to cover if ever we should do a Part 2! I am sure you all know that my arm does not exactly have to be pulled to cover any film that stars the incredible DIANE FRANKLIN of AMITYVILLE 2, DEADLY LESSONS and SUMMER GIRL fame. Heck, she doesn’t even play a particularly nice person in LAST AMERICAN but I’m in awe of her anyway. Basically this film is like somebody stomping on your heart for 90 minutes to the beat of early eighties new wave. Why, the only thing as heartless and unfair as this teen comedy’s universe is life itself! Horror fans should dig the whole thing as all the action seems to be taking place about a block away from their favorite slasher flick and they’re sure to recognize FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 4’S LAWRENCE MONOSON in the lead role!

A FACE IN THE CROWD (1957)
Here’s the last one for now and it’s a doozy! An unrecognizable ANDY GRIFFITH portrays a drunken lout named Lonesome Larry Rhodes, who has a penchant for speaking his mind and is discovered by radio producer Marcia Jeffries (PATRICIA NEAL) sobering up in jail. Soon his homespun wisdom is taking the country by storm and he becomes a power hungry political figure with a talent for manipulating the public to do his biding. Eventually it becomes all to clear to Jeffries that if she has not created a monster, she has at least empowered one and set it loose upon the world. GRIFFITH’s goofy grinning sociopath is legitimately mortifying and most horrific of all is how terrifyingly timely this brilliant slice of cinema from the great ELIA KAZAN (ON THE WATERFRONT, EAST OF EDEN) is today.

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Tags: General Horror

Re-Watch Review:: Blood Rage (1987)

August 12th, 2016 · 4 Comments

I love all types of horror films but it’s no secret that slasher flicks, particularly those born in the eighties, stand as my golden child favorites. It’s all because they carried me from fan to fanatical and I can always count on them to bring the fun. No matter how many times haters try to belittle them, there’s no changing that a good slasher movie is like a party grenade and it’s a party grenade you can enjoy equally with a group of friends as you can alone. Why, just the other day I was feeling down and out and so I threw THE BURNING (1981) into my faithful TV and voila- 90 minutes later I was stinking of joie de vivre. Fellow slasher fans know what I’m talking about.

Long story short, I view the recent blu-ray release of BLOOD RAGE (1987, aka NIGHTMARE IN SHADOW WOODS) as a holy gift from the slasher Gods. BLOOD RAGE is a very special film my friends and I mean “special” in every connotation you can think of. It not only fulfills all slasher film requirements, it also handily adds a few atypical flavors you didn’t know you were missing. There’s a bizarre subterranean river of disproportionate gonzo melodrama surging through the film (which is as off-putting as it is hilarious) and the flick’s limited location (an apartment complex and its adjacent patch of woods) creates a trippily surreal repetitive rat maze quality. You get all the eighties fashions you can ask for, a riveting and righteous synth score, more gore than you’re likely to expect (especially if you are used to the heavily edited version like I was) and it’s all wrapped up in the very oddest and idiosyncratic of bows. You can list superior slasher flicks all day long if you wish, this baby has got true character and that’s worth way more than garden-variety competence to me.

Credibly twitchy LOUISE LASSER stars as Maddie, a mad housewife whose exciting Thanksgiving announcement regarding her recent wedding engagement is dampened by news that her crazy child Todd has escaped from a mental hospital. Little does she know that Todd’s twin brother Terry is the true psychopath and he’s been living with her all along! Easy to look at new wave mannequin MARK SOPER plays both twins and although he’s not always given the best material to work with, he does a fine job of making his duel characters truly distinguishable from each other. Soon Terry is carving up friends, acquaintances, neighbors, bungling mental health professionals and his soon to be step dad with the carte blanche understanding that his put upon bro will take the heat. Will quickly unraveling Maddie discover the truth or will she spend a remarkably inordinate amount of time barking on the phone to unseen and clearly underpaid telephone operators? Both, it turns out! God bless LASSER for having no clue what kind of movie she’s starring in and God bless the director for not having the foggiest idea of when to call “Cut!”

I don’t salivate over any old release that comes down the pike (especially when I already own an earlier version of it) but I have to say I’m so glad I finally got to view BLOOD RAGE in its best possible form (thanks to Arrow Films). Heck, I even dug the Special Features because instead of dragging out ancient chestnuts, they gave me much needed info on this little known gem! Who knew the flick’s Producer MARIANNE KANTER also acts in the film as Dr. Berman, the not nearly nosey enough psychiatrist whose duel talents include participating in the most awkward voice over ever committed to film AND the ability to scream her head off after being chopped in half (spoiler alert). Gee, now that I’ve seen all of the outlandish gore effects returned to their rightful place within the film, I feel like I’ve been living a lie all these years! I’ve been eating chocolate chip cookies with all of the chocolate chips removed! Now, I’m not saying extra vicious kills make BLOOD RAGE a better movie but… who am I kidding? Yes, they DO make it better, way better! C’mon.

In closing, if you’re a slasher fan or even if you just adore cult-y micro-budgeted B-films that star peculiar ladies of a certain age chewing through scenery like they’re playing to a back row in a galaxy far, far away, BLOOD RAGE is for you! Finally seeing it in its full form is like watching a side dish transform into a main course and I can guarantee yours truly will be begging for seconds of this holiday set slasher once that turkey of holidays Thanksgiving comes back around.

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Tags: General Horror · General Insanity

Re-Watch Review:: Magic (1978)

August 8th, 2016 · 2 Comments

Take heart kiddies, for every movie that is not quite as good as you recall there is another film that is way better than you remember. Take RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH’S 1978 deadly dummy opus MAGIC for example; once you adjust to the idea that there’s nothing supernatural going on, it’s really a fantastic, character-driven, psychological horror movie. My history with the flick goes like this: the notoriously kindertraumatic TV commercial creeped the crap out of me as a critter and then when I mustered the bravery to watch the movie as a teen (in the height of the gore boom), I found it to be as threatening as a splinter. Maybe my bloodthirsty expectations were too high but sorry, the bludgeoning of BURGESS MEREDITH wasn’t going to cut it. Flash forward to today-ville and I’ve changed my plea to semi-obsessed. I’d say the changing of my tune is due to my need for on screen violence lessening and my getting older and relating to the characters more. Plus, I recently very much enjoyed the book that it’s based on by William Goldman.

Call me crazy but I think one of life’s great pleasures is reading a book that a movie was based on (or one of those tie-in novels based on a script). It’s so fun to contrast and compare and every added or altered tidbit is a prize. Goldman’s novel MAGIC solidified the film for me and although he certainly did a marvelous job on his adapted screenplay, I now have a better grasp of what was missing in the movie (for me) all these years. Unsurprisingly, my qualms are kindertrauma inclined. The book does a far better job filling us in on the main character’s troubled childhood and abandonment by his mother, which goes a long way in explaining his mindset. Additionally, the central love story makes more sense when we are privy to the characters’ full history together. Finally MAGIC’s sly shell game finale works fine in the book but not at all on screen. Too little effort was made to adjust to the changed medium and I think it would have been better to drop the misdirection and go full on cat & mouse mode. Anything would be better than the film’s bizarre last scene that stomps all over what should have been a bittersweet final note.

So there’s a couple things I’d rather were done differently but that doesn’t mean I can’t still love it. At its core, MAGIC is pretty straightforward morality tale about the horror of loosing one’s sense of self in an effort to achieve acceptance. ANTHONY HOPKINS portrays Corky Withers, a down on his luck magician who ads an obnoxious ventriloquist dummy to his act in a last ditch effort to save his career. The dummy “Fatts” is basically Corky’s dark side, a wooden manifestation of his id. He’s sort of like a precursor to an internet troll who “speaks his mind” and becomes popular with those who are cathartically thrilled by hostility but unwilling to pay the consequences themselves.

At first Fatt’s cutting aggressiveness is a watershed for socially stumbling Corky and he becomes a magnet for success but his alter ego becomes harder to keep in line and soon there’s a question of which persona will dominate. Like many an addict, Corky is left choosing between a mutant-self that promises plenty but threatens to eclipse him and an authentic self whose track record is marred by seclusion and little joy.

Seeing MAGIC all cleaned up on DVD in its proper ratio reveals it’s certainly a lot more atmospheric than I remembered. The run-down lake house property that much of the film’s later action takes place in, is deliciously dank, gloomy and downright ill-boding. The real stars of the show however are its two (or should I say three?) lead performances. I think we all know what ANTHONY HOPKINS is capable of. Truth told, our guy’s weird accent in this movie is so all over the place that it’s nearly kaleidoscopic but it matters zero because he’s impossible to be bored by. Creepily, his very last line in the film “Kiss the girl goodbye” I swear, is full on, 100% Hannibal Lecter, to the point of giving me chills. It’s almost like you can hear Hannibal being born in this movie…I kid you not. The way HOPKINS is able to bring both Fatts and Corky to life is impressive indeed and God bless ATTENBOROUGH for leaving in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment with Fatts clearly moving on his own accord, just to keep us on our toes. And then there’s ANN-MARGRET who’ve I’ve been in love with ever since she sang a lullaby to Pebbles on THE FLINTSTONES as Ann- Margrock. She’s every shade of charming and effortlessly pushes the point that MAGIC is as much a tragic love story as it is a horror/thriller.

Geez, I feel like I haven’t said enough about Fatts! I totally get my younger self’s desire to see him leaping around like a mad monkey slashing folks (as Chucky would soon do) but there’s no denying how creepy Fatts is just chilling out, sitting still. The fact that he is designed to vaguely resemble HOPKINS certainly adds much to his unsettling quality and rarely has a non-human been such a scene-stealer. And that voice! That voice, I’m sure has launched countless nightmares. Um, where is the remake of MAGIC? That’s what I’d like to know. Talk about your sleeping giants! All you’d need to do is cram some action into the final act, add a dream sequence in which Fatts massacres a busload of children and then cast SAM ROCKWELL and NAOMI WATTS as leads. Throw out a trailer that perfectly mimics the original trailer and then sit back and watch the money roll in! Who could resist it? Not me. Anyway, if you haven’t seen MAGIC in a while, watch it again and just prepare to forgive it for not ramping up the thrills in the climax. And do read the book, I highly recommend it! And don’t forget to listen to the theme song “Magic” by Olivia Newton John (Don’t correct me, my fantasy world is an improvement on reality)!

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Tags: General Horror · Then & Now

Unk’s Favorite Stranger Things

August 3rd, 2016 · 3 Comments

Howdy, I’m taking a cue from my old pal Mickster and sharing some of my own STRANGER THINGS favorite things. If you’re sick of hearing about STRANGER THINGS, write a letter to your local Congressman and demand better TV shows so that this one doesn’t stand out like a beautiful neon sore thumb anymore!

Winona Ryder
I admit that I fell out of love with WINONA somewhere along the line (the day I saw ALIEN RESURRECTION) but we made up eventually (the day I saw BLACK SWAN). Most tend to think of her excellent turns in HEATHERS and BEETLEJUICE when they fawn over her but seeing her hanging around a makeshift fort in STRANGER THINGS reminded me how much territory WELCOME HOME ROXY CARMICHAEAL owns in my heart. Well let it be known that WINONA tops all of her previous gigs and then some in STRANGER THINGS, she brings it full throttle in every scene. She’s so exemplary at expressing rage and profound pain at the same time and I think this series makes it obvious that she’s just getting started. If I were JOHNNY DEPP, I’d change my tattoo back to “Winona Forever” as soon as possible.

The Score
Thanks to flicks like DRIVE and IT FOLLOWS, synth scores are all the rage but rarely has a latter day synth score fit so perfectly within the context of a story as the chilling beats that pulsate in STRANGER THINGS. You can thank Austin band “Survive” for STRANGER‘s hypnotic CARPENTER crashing into MORODER awesomeness. Hey, the hairs on my arms are standing up just thinking about it!

The Songs
I know THE BANGLES’ cover of “Hazy Shade of Winter” didn’t come out until 1985 but it plays over the closing credits and credits don’t take place in any specific time so that’s OK right? I think so. Anyway life is more enjoyable when you don’t sweat anachronisms too much. For the most part ST’s selection of songs is pretty spot on and my ears just can’t say no to THE CLASH, MODERN ENGLISH and ECHO AND THE BUNNYMAN. Oh and TOTO’s “Africa“, only a slobbering goon would not dig that tune. There’s an official STRANGER THINGS playlist on SPOTIFTY, so check it out!

The Font
Oh geez, for years I’ve been searching for the STRANGER THINGS title font which I used to find on just about every horror paperback I read back in my youth. I was even thinking of going on Facebook and asking if anyone knew it but I chickened out because I was too scared of being left hanging. Thanks to STRANGER THINGS all I had to do was Google to find out I was one of many wondering the same thing! Turns out it’s called ITC BENGUIAT and yes, I’ve downloaded it for future use.

Ben and Nicole
I, like many, fell head over heals in fascination with Barb and how could you not? But there are two other characters that also lodged themselves in my brain that I found myself wanting more of. Let’s hear it for Ben the bearded bear who worked at the diner and gave Eleven french fries and is therefore a true unsung hero! I feel like if he was cast on FARGO he would have hung around much longer. And what about Nicole, the tattling ginger photographer? She didn’t have many lines but she made sure to make every facial expression count while glaring and smirking from the background. We need so much more of her in Season Two!

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Tags: General Horror · Kinder Loves Mickster!

Review:: Lake Nowhere (2016)

July 25th, 2016 · 1 Comment

It’s my duty as a citizen to inform you all about a lil’ horror movie that impressed the heck out of me called LAKE NOWHERE. Honestly, I’m not always the best audience for ultra low budget cinema because I can only hold back the bitter critical voice in my head for so long and I’ve been burned by vapid horror scenester vanity projects way too many times before. Turns out that any trepidation I might have had checking out a recent local screening (shout out to PUFF and Philly’s greatest video rental/coffee spot CINEMUG) were completely unwarranted because LAKE NOWHERE is not only the best slasher salute I’ve seen in a long time but it’s also surprisingly effective at delivering genuine chills. There’s something incredibly appealing about the entire aesthetic of the flick. It’s beautifully shot and almost painterly in its composition and I kept finding myself fantasizing about blowing up certain frames of the film and maybe hanging them over my couch.

Here’s a complaint though; it’s too short! That’s a bit of a compliment too because I just wanted it to go on and on. Thankfully it’s padded in the begging in a rather clever way with old school faux trailers for other flicks, each of which I would be very excited to see in the future. As cool as those retro trailers are, they’re sneakily misleading. They are presented caked in scratchy VHS damage and noise and they’re almost built to sway the viewer to let down their guard thinking they are in for the standard eighties homage. NOWHERE delivers on that level for sure but it also delivers on a bizarrely uncanny and unnerving tone you might not be ready for. Instead of focusing on the usual flippant references and heavy handed nudging towards outdated attire, directors CHRISTOPHER PHELPS and MAXIM VAN SCOY (yes, I’m jealous of that name), set their sights on a morose LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH kind of atmosphere. As long as I’m title dropping, NOWHERE also triggered freaky/fond memories of two of my favorite cabin in the woods movies, SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT and the original, less funny EVIL DEAD.

I’m not sure if it’s an appropriate comparison but for my tastes I enjoyed LAKE NOWHERE a lot more than either segment of the similarly drive-in inclined GRINDHOUSE(2007). I stand so impressed that these young filmmakers were able to capture the authentic tone that so many others have swung and missed at. Furthermore, this baby reeks of having serious re-watch value. Actually, now that I think of it, its short length might be an asset if you view it between two other flicks during a late night marathon. Oh man, I didn’t even mention that it’s wonderfully blood-soaked and gory in the old school FRIDAY THE 13TH tradition! Is it spoiler-y to say there is a scene involving a head and a neck parting ways thanks to a sharp weapon that made the whole room erupt in cheers and gasps? Oh and the killer! You know I love that THE FINAL GIRLS (2015) flick but I truly did not dig the look of that killer, particularly his dopey mask. The unnervingly amorphous yet consistently striking threat in LAKE NOWHERE has got something so dark, dank and primordial going on, that it really gets under your skin.

Slasher movie homages are a dime a dozen but truly good ones are practically unicorns. LAKE NOWHERE happens to be right up my alley and besides touching all the bases I require in a slasher flick it goes one better by summoning that difficult to describe eeriness something like THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK (1972) is so drenched in. I sure hope that it’ll show up in everybody’s neck of the woods but in the meantime why not follow LAKE NOWHERE on Facebook HERE to keep up to date. Word has it that it will be available on VOD and DVD August 16th and that’s fine by me because I’m surely going to want to watch this gem again come Halloween.

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Tags: General Horror

Review:: Ghostbusters (2016)

July 22nd, 2016 · 5 Comments

I’ve got a bone to pick with this new GHOSTBUSTERS! Now that I’ve seen it I can’t seem to get the theme song by living legend RAY PARKER JR. out of my head! This has been going on for days. Help! Besides that valid gripe, I’d say this newfangled GHOSTBUSTERS is my favorite GHOSTBUSTERS movie of the three. In fact, I think new GHOSTBUSTERS makes the original GHOSTBUSTERS look like GHOSTBUSTERS 2. It’s like some guardian angel knew my secret assessment of the first movie was, “Needs more ANNIE POTTS!’ and totally ran with that concept. I’ve heard it through the whine-vine that some folks were upset about this movie being made before they even saw it but as it turns out, those people are exactly the same people whose opinions I care nothing about! That really worked out for me. While all the mouth-breathing (STRANGER THINGS shout-out!!) fan boys were busy throwing fits, I was reserving my energy so that I could fight with Aunt John over who got to be BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD in PS3’s LEGO JURRASIC WORLD.

I’m not even trying to be contrary here or raddle anyone’s cage. I think all four of the women in GHOSTBUSTERS are hilarious. I can’t believe anyone would ever even present a spurious debate about whether women are funny. That is an insult to all the times I had to set my VCR to record SCTV as a kid. Sure, I loved every SCTV cast member but CATHERINE O’HARA and ANDREA MARTIN absolutely killed me and they still do. I can say the same thing for RADNER, CURTAINand NEWMAN on SNL and don’t even get me started on the cast of MADTV because we’ll be here all day (but special shout out to MO COLLINS). I know haters have other complaints involving the purity of the franchise and their oh so noble remake fatigue but I feel like I already heard all that noise when that THE THING prequel came out in 2011. I’m so glad I didn’t let that nonsense curdle my experience with that flick because warts and all, I love it oh so much. If anyone should be mad it’s me cuz these bellyachers are always jeopardizing my chances for sequels. Damn, I could be watching THE THING 2 or THE THING: GLOBAL CONTAGION right now!

Just so you don’t think I’m overcompensating with praise, I’ll throw a couple nitpicks onto the fire. I did find fault in the fact that there are not one but two scenes involving the heroes trying out new gadgets. The second one is superfluous and feels like an out of place toy commercial. Also my Jessica Fletcher detection skills are telling me that a spellbinding dance number featuring CHRIS HEMSWORTH was deemed not worthy to be included in its entirety and that hurts me, that hurts me deeply. But outside those quibbles this flick is borderline intoxicating. There’s a scene in the climax in which the ladies throw down some impressively elaborate and electrifying ghost-busting as the music swells and it feels about ten times more rousing than anything in the original two. Whenever the flick stresses the value of loyalty in friendship it feels genuine and earned but its most powerful (and supremely fitting) message involves the importance of standing by what you believe in and not allowing the snide opinions of others to sway you from accomplishing your goals.

Feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt. It’s not like I ‘m a huge GHOSTBUSTERS mega fan in the first place. I certainly liked the first films well enough and I have zero problem spending as much time with BILL MURRAY as humanly possible (SCROOGED & WHAT ABOUT BOB? forever!) but there were a lot more interesting movies vying for my attention back in 1984 (like STREETS OF FIRE and HEAVENLY BODIES for example). Maybe I was a little too old to get the full fan frenzy? I have never in my life tasted a Hi-C Ecto cooler and I have zero plans to change that. Plus truth told, I enjoy the Filmation GHOSTBUSTERS cartoon way better than the “real” GHOSTBUSTERS version (OMG Tina’s mom, SUSAN BLU from FRIDAY THE 13TH part VII is the voice of Belfry the bat! I love that guy and all his cousins!). In any case, if being a “real” fan means being a “real” stick in the mud you can count me out. This new GHOSTBUSTERS is a good time. It’s fun. It made me laugh. It yanked me right out of the now nightmarish world we live in and set me down in a place where I could not wait to see what happened next. It’s a cinematic snow cone and it does exactly what you want a summer movie to do. I can’t help it! Busting makes me feel good! Oh no, that song is back…

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Tags: General Horror · Kinder-Spotlight · Laser eyes!

Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (Plus Friday Funhouse)

July 15th, 2016 · 5 Comments

If you want me to go to church, build a church in honor of Ray Harryhausen; that is a church I will have no qualms going to. I’ll even put coins instead of buttons in the collection basket when it comes my way. Besides being a true artistic genius (geez, the guy’s drawings are as jaw-dropping as his miniatures), he has inspired so many people to dream bigger than they would have without his shining example. In the documentary RAY HARRYHAUSEN: SPECIAL EFFECTS TITAN (now available on Blu-ray from the fine folks at ARROW), you’ll get to see the likes of STEVEN SPIELBERG, PETER JACKSON, TIM BURTON, JOHN LANDIS, JOE DANTE, JAMES CAMERON, GUILLERMO del TORO, TERRY GILLIAM and lifelong pal RAY BRADBURY sing his praises and thank him for his inspiration. I don’t have to tell ya, that’s quite the fan squad to have in one’s corner and although I’m not one to glorify financial success over artistry, it’s pretty amazing to see how the ripple effect of HARRYHAUSEN’s brilliance went on to spur the most successful filmmakers of all time. Recently a beautiful gold statue was made to honor HARRYHAUSEN and that makes me happy but is life-size big enough? I think it should be a couple miles taller.

My first run in with HARRYHAUSEN came thanks to a Sunday afternoon showing of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS and it immediately stopped me in my channel switching tracks. The scene featured a dude in a skirt fending off a gang of animated skeletons and it witch-zapped me into a state of mesmerized awe. The only thing I ever saw that was more astonishing was that one time when I was a kid and I woke up in the middle of the night to see a bottle of Elmer’s glue dancing a mad jig on my dresser and that was probably (I hope and pray) a half-awake hallucination.

Not long after that I would get to witness HARRYHAUSEN’s sorcery on the big screen via his swan song before retirement, 1981’s CLASH OF THE TITANS. I’ll never forget that we got to the theater early and the show before us had not ended yet so every time the theater door would open to let out an usher or unruly kid, I’d get to see a momentary glimpse of CLASH’s giant Kraken-coated climax. As filled with anticipation as that left me, nothing could have prepared me for the signature scene involving the slithery showdown with a glowing–eyed, rattlesnake-tailed, Medusa. That sequence takes the cake because it’s as thrilling as it is chilling and it’s got kindertrauma written all over it. Also, can I add that I’m sorta team Medusa? She was just hanging out in her pad and wasn’t asking for any trouble. Then again, I’m also team Calibos and he definitely was up to no good and I forgive him because he had an awesome bone throne, a stylish swamp lair and chummed around with a giant vulture. It’s possible I’m not the best judge of character.

Anyway, this is exactly where I’m NOT going to trash CGI and cry about how computers ruined everything while writing on a computer. I mean what’s the point? I have a feeling people and their eyeballs have changed more than movie effects have. Wasn’t there a time when the viewer met the filmmakers half way and used their own imagination a little? These days folks seem to be much better at pointing out holes than patching them up and yep, that extends to just about everything. All I know is that checking out HARRYHAUSEN’s glorious work always brings me back to a less persnickety mindset and a sweet space where I’m so stunned I can be knocked over with a Pegasus feather. It’s like you’re looking at the exact spot where diligent skill, virtuoso talent and uncanny alchemy meet. HARRYHAUSEN himself hits the nail on the head within the documentary when he points out the dream-like quality his artistry achieves. I don’t think it’s anything that can ever be duplicated but if you want to be inspired by it, well then, the sky is truly the limit.

NOTE: Folks, check out more ARROW FILMS awesomeness HERE, share your own HARRYHAUSEN memories in the comments and since it’s Funhouse Friday let’s say we do a CLASH OF THE TITANS puzzle below! There are ten differences between these two images; can you pretend those differences are Pokemon creatures of some sort and find them all?!!

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Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · General Horror

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

June 17th, 2016 · 7 Comments

I was walking on air after seeing JAMES WANS’ THE CONJURING 2. It’s pretty much every thing I want in a horror movie. My persnickety brain tried to come up with a valid grievance but it was doused a couple scenes later and had more to do with my trying to jump ahead of the story than any flaw of the film. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a masterwork that proves without a doubt that horror movies can be meaningful and emotionally rewarding without losing any of their power to scare and thrill. I think it’s a giant step forward out of the genre’s typical arrested development swamp but even those who are ONLY interested in chalking up frights will be hard pressed to find something to grouse about. Furthermore, it’s a sterling defense for the value of sequels because the viewer’s relationship with the characters is all that much deeper having withstood such a rewarding (albeit dubiously accurate to the nth degree) ordeal with them once before.

Speaking of, I have to say, the chemistry between PATRICK WILSON and VERA FARMIGA as Ed and Lorraine Warren, the married paranormal investigating team that anchors the series is all kinds of phenomenal. Seriously, somebody should be casting them in a remake of BRINGING UP BABY because they spark like CARY GRANT and KATHERINE HEPBURN in this. It makes me sad I no longer work in a video store because I would have so loved to have answered the question “Can you recommend an epic romance?’ with “Sure, THE CONJURING 2”. There’s a scene where WILSON picks up a guitar and sings “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” to FARMIGA and it’s like watching cinematic gold being spun- and let’s just say it’s a good thing I don’t mind blowing my nose in the sleeve of my Pac Man t-shirt. It’s transcendent, plain and simple and I wonder if many horror fans even know they deserve such a beautiful thing every once in a while. Geez, they really need to put out a music video of it so that I could watch it over and over again.

Anyway, there I was getting all ready to break through my writer’s apathy and gush about this monument to everything the genre should aspire to when news about the Orlando gay club shooting massacre hit and knocked the wind right out of me. There was no way I could think about a movie. In fact, every time I went online and saw that people were still hen squawking about summer sales and recent acquisitions, I pretty much had to self-eject myself out of fear of having to return Aunt John’s computer with a vomit soaked keyboard. Actually, the less said about the mental zone I found myself in, the better. I’m not proud of the thoughts in my head and the things that were going through my mind. It’s one thing to be rightfully angry and it’s another thing to dissect every word spoken or not spoken until you’re no longer capable of distinguishing friend from foe. I may have even responded to a friend who greeted me with a smile in a guttural possession voice worthy of the film we’re speaking of. “Don’t you know what’s going on??!!” Not proud of that.

Hey, we all grieve and process things differently and you never know what extra hurdles are in another person’s path. Once you start condemning other people’s responses more than the original tragedy though, you can be pretty sure you’re running in the wrong direction. I feel guilty for not voicing my outrage louder and yet I never want to become the type of person whose first reaction to something so heinous is to view it as grist for the social media mill. Plus I’m pretty sure I would have said something I would have regretted. I know that because I’ve already deleted about ten paragraphs here for too clearly revealing my tenuous mental state and I usually only have to delete about two. Anyway, kudos to all of those who determinately focused on the 49 lives lost rather than themselves or the selfie-prone sewer sludge that committed the atrocity.

Needless to say I’m still stunned and reassembling but the more I think about THE CONJURING 2 the more I find it both fortifying and apropos. Not for nothing, the film opens at the Amityville house; a joint world renown for being the location of multiple murders of unarmed innocents by a weak minded lunatic happy to blame anyone other than the douchebag in the mirror holding the gun. It’s a marvel how the opening’s ferociousness (not to mention jaw dropping attention to detail) surpasses every film in the AMITYVILLE franchise (with possible exception of my beloved PART 2: THE POSSESSION) put together and in such a brief amount of time. If you want me to buy WHEATIES, I’d advise you to put JAMES WAN on the box. The guy is unstoppable.

Fittingly in the basement there is indeed an ancient instigating presence viciously fanning the flames and hiding its malicious intent behind the cloaking costume of religion. Personally I’m weary of any and all religions but I find the way THE CONJURING 2 presents its faith surprisingly palatable. While the dark threat uses religion as a mask to hide its manipulations our stalwart heroes arm themselves with their love for each other and utilize religion as a sort of magnifying amplifier of that love. Ed even tells the beast, “I don’t care what you believe.” It’s not a matter of theology; it’s not a matter of debate or willpower, Ed need only look at his wife to verify an undeniable powerful force. In case you didn’t know, this is how many gay (LGBTQ) people feel towards their loved ones. Against wrathful voices, they have no choice but to walk toward that energy. It’s inarguable and yes, it’s very different than the feeling that guides you towards hate. Trust me, I’m familiar with both.

One of many reverberating scenes takes place on a swing set between Lorraine and Janet (MADISON WOLFE), the child who the bullying darkness has singled out and gravitated towards (by the way, VERA FARMIGA is impeccable and between this and her soulful performance on the last season of BATES MOTEL, all I want to do is fan her in awe with a palm leaf). Lorraine shares with Janet that she knows exactly what it feels to have her threatening experiences disbelieved and to be ostracized for being different. I can’t quote it verbatim but she also includes a mentoring reminder that the depressive, self-hating feelings the incidents left her with are exactly the feelings that the demon feeds and thrives upon and that she must fight against them. A similar sentiment is later echoed when Ed advises her siblings how to best respond to the beast that wishes to divide and destroy them. He compares the attacks to the schoolyard bullying they are all too familiar with and advises them to react in exactly the same way; that it is their duty to stand up for each other as a family and that they have a greater strength as a galvanized whole. Truth.

So if you ever catch yourself thinking it’s a bad idea to see a horror movie after your soul has been through the wringer, don’t be so sure. In some cases a horror flick can provide you with just the rallying inspiration you need. That’s the power of art and that’s the value of creating rather than destroying. I’ll have to exclude myself from the list of people who did not succumb to the darkness after America’s latest mass shooting. It’s very possible I myself may have been possessed for a while. To fully escape my personal tar pit I had to return to the lessons of the film one last time. The slithering, misleading demon in THE CONJURING 2 had one chink in its armor, one scale missing in its dragon skin. Knowing its correct, true name and speaking it aloud was its one vulnerability. I happen to know exactly the name of the demon that snuffed out 49 lives at an Orlando Florida gay bar on Latino night. That monster has one name and that name is Hate. Don’t let it fool you and don’t let it win.

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Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · General Horror · My own personal Jesus

For The Love of:: Eyes of Fire (1983)

March 24th, 2016 · 4 Comments

It’s getting dark around here so I’m going to light a candle by gushing about a flick that fascinates the heck out of me, 1983’s EYES OF FIRE. This one has come up a bunch of times on these pages over the years and every time it does, I declare I’m going to watch it again immediately and then I usually don’t. That is because the thought of it stirs up some freaky unease in me and I mean that as a compliment towards its effectiveness. It’s been feathering the inside of my mind more than usual lately after seeing THE WITCH so the other night I returned to it again only to find that its spell on me has lessened exactly zero percent over the years. There’s something so elemental and mystical about EYES OF FIRE that even on the occasion that it sports garishly dated video effects, it somehow makes them work. And there’s something so primal going on that the entire experience of watching it feels like a forgotten memory from another life being unearthed. One thing that I think EYES OF FIRE excels past THE WITCH in, is convincing the viewer of the endless depth and open, uncharted nature of the forest its story nests in. Whereas THE WITCH has a definite (and comparatively comfortable) sense of a home base, EYES OF FIRE makes you feel dazed and lost and scrambling in the middle of nowhere.

When I was a critter nothing scared me more than anything concerning big bad Satan. That slippery dude was lurking behind every corner back in the spook-aholic seventies. As I’ve grown older those fears have become less potent. Sadly, a lifetime of witnessing holy rollers spewing more venom than any invisible demon has weakened my trepidations concerning ol’ Scratch (if only I could sue the Bible thumpers for diluting my DVD collection with their relentless overplay). Luckily EYES OF FIRE is a movie that knows exactly how to leap frog over my skeptic (read exhausted) view of religion by presenting evil as a force that is a fundamental part of nature itself (for example, a fox isn’t evil but if you are a bunny he might as well be). More importantly (and this moral concept can be found in many a horror flick), evil actions leave a residue that breeds more evil in the future and places that have tasted an excess of misery turn bad. That’s not superstition, that’s science!

IN EYES OF FIRE a group of pioneers are cast out of their village (sound familiar?) and must fend for themselves in an unwelcoming frontier world. It’s a large group (that’s sure to dwindle) and two of the main players include an adulterous priest bent on spreading the good word (that he fails to follow) and a talented witch working overtime to clean up his mess. In other words, the person who puts on false airs of piety causes all the destruction and reaps all the rewards and the truly spiritual one quietly saves the day and gets shafted. My how things haven’t changed. To escape a tribe of marauding Indians they venture into a cursed valley that they know the superstitious (respectful) Indians won’t follow them into and as you might expect, learn that maybe they don’t know everything. The disgraced priest even has the brass-ball hubris to suggest he can “save” a young Native American orphan through baptism but a bark-faced witch and a gaggle of naked tree spirits let him know that the local beliefs are about to become way more pertinent.

EYES OF FIRE is a unique movie though I’m sure much of what makes it special to some will be seen as drawbacks to others. It’s a low budget affair but that helps to keep it both grounded and undomesticated. You don’t sense a Holllywood vibe anywhere and the un-caged atmosphere feels both freeing and dangerous. It has always seemed to me sort of like an educational historical film you’d see in junior high school that goes horribly wrong. Which is not to say that there are not more than a few moments of incredible beauty, some documentary natural, some arthouse surreal. As I said above, there are a few wonky moments of dated effects but they come off as mostly charming and may even help the viewer jump backwards to an earlier, more wide-eyed and accepting mind-set. The acting is good enough that you’re hardly aware of it and, more often than not it leaves you feeling like a present but invisible observer. And may I please give a shout out to character actress FRAN RYAN who used to pop up as a battle-axe in just about everything from PRIVATE SCHOOL to STEWERDESS SCHOOL back in the day? She rules.

Sometimes when a movie is not available on DVD its reputation is exaggerated simply due to its obscurity but let me tell you, EYES OF FIRE really is an outstanding and poetic horror film. It may be too patient and quirky to garner unanimous approval but those who dig subtle supernatural horror (see again: THE WITCH) should be all over this like mold on corn. In fact, I’m thinking if it had enjoyed a proper release back in the DVD gold rush days its reputation would be comparable to LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH by now (and yep, it would be cherished by a similar crowd). I for one am a devout fan. It hits me in a way that few films do and why shouldn’t it when it’s basically a ginger-led backyard rendition of DAYS OF HEAVEN meets CATHY’S CURSE (only half kidding). The truth is, EYES OF FIRE comes from a place where it seems to be authentically mesmerized by the world that it depicts and that way of seeing things has a knack of swaying the viewer to do the same.

EYES OF FIRE is currently available on YouTube and you should watch it while you can. There’s no guaranteeing it will ever be available any other way and the crime of watching a movie for free is far less than the crime of allowing a piece of art to die. Hey, look (below)! EYES OF FIRE features Black Phillip’s ornery great grand pappy and he’s eating all the books! There’s your true Devil! The true Devil separates man from art and ideas!

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Tags: General Horror · My own personal Jesus

The Visit (2015)

March 22nd, 2016 · 2 Comments

I hate to write negative reviews because I usually feel guilty for hours afterwards and I’m so worried that I’ll have a “Eureka” moment later that will alter my opinion. It may even seem like I wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to horror because I tend to skip over writing about movies that don’t impress me and wait until the next flick that floats my boat comes along. Plus because I’m not getting paid for my reviews I can simply ignore crap that I know for a fact I will not enjoy like THE GREEN INFERNO. That’s not very open-minded I know, but I figure as an adult it’s my prerogative to decide what I’d like to digest and which filmmaker’s output I’m legitimately interested in. All of this is building up to me informing you that I sincerely disliked and felt nearly insulted by THE VISIT. I know that’s harsh but it’s true. I wanted to like it! I still think the premise is solid but it simply irked the living daylights out of me. In fact, I watched THE VISIT for free thanks to Aunt John winning a ticket in the ACME supermarket Monopoly game and I currently sit here feeling like I’ve been ripped off because I have to walk back to the store’s Redbox to return it!

Dang, I hate it when people say, “I want my time back!’ because I feel like you can always get something of value out of a movie. Maybe I should just use this experience to reaffirm that I don’t like everything? But I already learned that lesson recently with the mediocrity machine that was GOOSEBUMPS (I might as well throw that one on the pyre too)! I have been on a “believable, relatable characters are essential” kick lately, did that mar my experience? I know for sure I didn’t buy the people in this movie. I don’t believe a mother would send her kids to the parents she’s been estranged from for 15 years, I don’t believe the kids would want to go, I don’t believe the kids wouldn’t simply walk out the front door when the horror becomes clear and I sure as hell don’t believe a SEPTA employee would indulge a child by providing beatbox accompaniment for his free style rap. There are some interesting nuggets here and there involving familial loss and abandonment but they sadly come off as phony and manipulative. Plus something about the film’s attitude towards the elderly and the mentally ill rubbed me the wrong way and there was a scene involving a diaper that should have never left the writer’s head. Oh and you can see the twist from miles away and there’s a ridiculous plot point involving a person incapable of wiping pancake batter off their computer. Essentially, a world of ugh.

So now I’m off to return the darn thing and not only did THE VISIT rile me but now it’s also making me feel terrible about hating it. Please, if you liked this movie don’t feel bad. I’m not trying to insult you. I’m glad that somebody liked it. I love, love, love that M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN loyally films in my neck of the woods and I will always adore THE SIXTH SENSE because it’s boss. This VISIT movie however, was not my cup of tea. Hmmm, maybe that’s my big take away from THE VISIT; that I’m allowed to dislike something simply as a matter of taste. It doesn’t mean the movie is garbage, it doesn’t mean I think I could do better and I’m in no way dismissing the hard work by many that obviously went into it. It’s just not for me and if I can’t give a hearty thumbs down to a movie that literally ends with a child free-style rapping about the psychological aftermath of having human excrement smeared on his face, what can I give a thumbs down to? C’mon, Ebert hated DAVID LYNCH’s obvious masterpiece BLUE VELVET, certainly I can loathe this bland excursion.

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Tags: General Horror