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...:::General Horror:::...

In Memoriam:: George A. Romero

July 17th, 2017 · 5 Comments

It’s a pretty good bet that I’m going to spend the entire day thinking about GEORGE A. ROMERO and the better part of the evening watching his remarkable, groundbreaking films. If a bomb dropped across the street it would be of secondary interest. Like many in the horror community I’m sure, I feel shell-shocked, it feels like a favorite teacher, mentor or spiritual Godfather has departed. I have never met Mr. ROMERO but he surely had a big impact on my life. I was born the year NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was being filmed, DAWN OF THE DEAD rammed right up against my adolescence and DAY OF THE DEAD knocked me upside my teenage head. I don’t have any personal anecdotes to share about him but allow me to indulge myself with some memories of some of the many times he fueled my love and (and genuine fear) of horror films. (The following is in the order of my own viewings rather than when the films were released).

DAWN OF THE DEAD

Somehow I saw DAWN OF THE DEAD before NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. It was in the earliest days of the VCR and nothing could prepare me for it. It certainly terrified me but it was also the coolest thing on earth! I was probably about 13 or 14 at the time and a big part of me was super ready for the entire world to drop dead and for me to live in a mall in which everything was free for the taking. You can probably see it coming a mile away these days but at the time, the helicopter zombie decapitation absolutely blew my mind and inspired many a rewind.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

For (I believe) several years, early MTV showed NOTLD on Halloween night. I was addicted to slashers at the time but it made it very clear to me that black and white movies could be just as frightening as the then modern fare I was devouring. Geez, that little girl (Karen) in the basement! The echoing screams of her mother! It’s horror at its purest. In addition, NOTLD still has one of the strongest opening sequences I can think of and I feel right at home inside the screen having spent my earliest days on this planet right outside of Pittsburgh (shout out to Allison Park!).

KNIGHTRIDERS

I didn’t have HBO as a kid but my friend did and it was always a blast to check out salacious flicks like TATTOO and VICE SQUAD while guzzling sodas that don’t exist anymore and chomping on bags of garbage. I’m going to say that the ground zero of my puberty occurred sometime while watching KNIGHTRIDERS and leave it at that. This is yet another great example of ROMERO being completely original and marching to the beat of his own drum.

CREEPSHOW

This movie was a damn big deal in my house and my younger brother was an even bigger fan of it than myself. We collected horror movie posters at the time and that CREEPSHOW poster was certainly one of the most striking and I’ll always be obsessed with that little rat crawling through the ghoul’s burlap looking cape. CREEPSHOW is known for being a lot of fun but it sure as hell scared the bejesus out of me too. I will forever and always be freaked out by TED DANSON’s submerged gurgling undead voice when he returns to exact his watery revenge. I need to also mention that the cover of FANGORIA with E.G. MARSHALL’s bug filled face bursting on it is one of the best things ever and I still remember greedily reading that issue in our screened in back porch. The cover has separated itself from its staples but I still proudly own that poor mangled thing.

TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE

ROMERO’s creatively creepy anthology series always had a knack of appearing at times when my brain was most susceptible to its shenanigans. Its opening narration and theme music were like a dog whistle alerting me that normalcy was about to jump out the window and be replaced by total unpredictability. Would it be funny, scary, weird, thoughtful or confounding or all of the above? You never knew what you were going to get, you just knew it would be far off the beaten track and a freaky good time.

MARTIN

I felt exactly as weird and ostracized as Martin as a teenager but looking back, he probably had it more together than I ever did. I was a big new wave music fan around this time and was so happy when I bought a SOFT CELL album that included a 12-inch song entitled MARTIN written in tribute to the film. I actually saw it a couple of weeks ago at a record store and I’m now going to hit myself in the face for not picking it because it may be the perfect song to annoy the neighbors…

DAY OF THE DEAD

Ack! Between you and me and the lamppost, I may own a copy of DAY OF THE DEAD and I may think it is brilliant but I’ve only truly watched it from beginning to end once (as far as I remember). My little brother and I happily went to see a midnight showing of it in Texas when it was first released and it left me with such a dire, hopeless soul-killing feeling that I never dared to watch it again. Maybe I was having mental problems at the time but it really clung to me like a morose, unshakable grimy cloud. I hereby promise to force myself to break the curse and watch it again soon to see if it still murders my precarious sense of well-being.

MONKEY SHINES

Aw, here’s the perfect cure for DAY OF THE DEAD. I love this movie. Is it bad that MONKEY SHINES may well be my favorite ROMERO film? I can’t help it.I‘ve got a soft spot for psychological thrillers and an even softer spot for that adorable monkey, Ella. Listen folks, there are very few movies that properly capture the complexities of an animal’s personality or the intricacies of the loving relationship between a human and their pet. What ROMERO did with this movie and how he presents Ella is incredibly impressive. I don’t care if there was more than one monkey; this has to be one of the greatest animal performances of all time. Also the strong emotional tie that is depicted in this movie totally reminds me of how I feel about my cats and how my cats (surely) feel about me so…now I know the power of representation!

LAND OF THE DEAD (plus DIARY and SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD)

By the time LAND OF THE DEAD came out I was a full grown fully dysfunctional semi-maybe adult (sorta, if you squint your eyes). Frankly after my experience with DAY OF THE DEAD I had some true trepidation mixed with my excitement to return to ROMERO’s vision. I wasn’t disappointed and I remember feeling particularly anxious during its zombies on the waterfront scene. DIARY and SURVIVAL came out over the last ten years while we’ve been doing this site. They are certainly stranger, more idiosyncratic takes on the DEAD and whether you like them or not, they also feel more personal. I’m so glad ROMERO got the chance to really experiment in his sandbox and I admire him for not taking the easy, more commercial route. He gave us horror fans, SO MUCH (and he gave us so much even after he was royally screwed on his rights to his unfathomably influential first feature film). He cut his own path and told us things that only he could. He made real art that whispered truths about humanity and culture that we’ll be happily deciphering and unraveling for decades to come. He generously entertained us while making us think and if you don’t agree, well then I’ll just have to quote my pal Barbara, “You’re ignorant”.

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Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · General Horror · Kinder-News

Friday The 13th: The Game

July 8th, 2017 · 6 Comments

I almost forgot to tell you fine folks that I got an opportunity to play the mind-blowing FRIDAY THE 13th video game! No, I’m not fancy enough to have a state of the art PS4 but I have a friend who is that fancy and we all know it’s not what you know but who you know that counts these days. I’ve been hearing a lot of stories about glitches and impossibly long waiting/loading periods but the night I played everything ran smooth as silk and the only glitch I ever caught was a rifle oddly floating in space and I kind of thought it looked cool anyway. Personally I found the game to be fun as hell. I know not all of our readers are into games but this is one that I think you should check out for kicks anyway if you get a chance. It’s basically like being thrown into one (or more) of the films and it tends to be as much fun to lose as it is to win. You can actually visit your favorite Crystal Lake hot spots like the staircase that poor Mark rolled down after he got an undeserved machete in the face, Jason’s sloppy shrine shack and even cozy book-filled Higgins Haven. It’s really a nice place to wander about in when someone isn’t trying to kill you.

Can you believe I survived the first two times I played? I believe I accurately behaved very closely to how I would in real life in such a situation. In other words, I hid a lot, ran in circles fretting and then jumped into the back of a car that a smart person or persons was able to fix. When Jason came after the car I watched the occupants jump out and bravely attack him as I looked to see if the car was old enough to have an ashtray in the door. I know that sounds cowardly but let me tell you, as soon as I started getting brave is as soon as I started to have my head crushed in. Oh, the things I’ve seen! Oh, the humanity! You really get a front row seat to shady human behavior when you’re playing online with random people. The cool thing is that after you are dead you can spy on the remaining players (or wait to be re-spawned as Part 6 Tommy Jarvis). I watched a person fix a boat only to have their pal jump into said boat and roar away without them! The betrayal! And once when I had gun I decided to help some folks when Jason jumped in front of their vehicle only to have them back up and run me over! The injustice! Ah, memories that will last a lifetime. Anyway, I had a blast and I can’t wait to play it again and check out any and all updates (a single player version and new maps/locations are promised) and I hope it inspires many more slasher movie tie-in games (my fingers are currently crossed for HELL NIGHT: ESCAPE FROM GARTH MANOR).

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Tags: General Horror · Toy Chest

Alien: Covenant (2017)

June 29th, 2017 · No Comments

Hey, I wrote this review right after I saw ALIEN: COVENANT opening day but I didn’t post it because I thought it sounded a bit too much like an Annie Wilkes nerd-tantrum. Plus, the movie got some decent reviews and I didn’t want to be a wet blanket or something. As it turns out though, it’s really not all that negative especially now that I’ve edited out the part that made me sound like I belonged in a mental hospital. So here it is, here’s me being all disappointed…

RIDLEY SCOTT is one of my favorite directors. He’s got a keen visual style and his explorations into the horror and science fiction genre have resulted in two of my all time favorite films (ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER). I’m point-blank grateful that he has chosen to delve deeper into these mesmerizing worlds. No matter how many times he revisits these cinematic arenas you can bet I’ll be standing in line opening day, giddy as all get out. I couldn’t resist if I tried and wild Xenomorphs couldn’t drag me away. It will always be an honor and a privilege to be invited to witness what currently intrigues a great artist like RIDLEY SCOTT. That said, I’m not exactly over the moon with ALIEN: COVENANT. It may work a shade better than PROMETHEUS as a monster movie but it’s got nothing on its predecessor in the compelling character department and it sorely lags behind its elder sibling in delivering a profound sense of awe. Honestly, it left me slightly peeved. Perturbed even! Downright hexed! But mostly I feel mournful- surprisingly mournful.

Am I being a baby? I know I have to go in the direction that SCOTT points me but darn it, I really want to stay with (possible spoiler) Elizabeth Shaw (NOOMI RAPACE). The weird thing is, I was aware that she might not be present in this new outing and I didn’t give it a second thought. SCOTT decided to switch gears and drive the bus more into the original ALIEN zone and how could I argue with that? I guess I just assumed some new character would rise up (a’ la Ginny Field) and be equally interesting and that didn’t happen. Did they really think they could just shake a tall brunette with an unflattering haircut like a set of keys in front of my face and I’d coo, “Ripley!”? It doesn’t work like that. Really, none of the new crew registers fully and although most (or all) of them are couples they strangely don’t seem to click with each other properly either. I’m going to optimistically assume that future viewings (or an extended cut) will help them gel (BILLY CRUDUP is actually pretty great but he’s trapped in a sad sack Schleprock role). Of course MICHAEL FASSBENDER’s David continues to be an exquisite creation but I kind of resent him for taking over the whole show and for his being shoved down my throat like a rolled up magazine. (Hey, who’s the coldest, most sterile, least emotive character? Let’s double him!) An image of Shaw appears in the film and it’s like salt on a wound. I care about her. I don’t care so much about persnickety androids and people who are torched before they even have a line of dialogue.

That’s my beef. I don’t mind the wonky science or the dumb decisions made by the crew but I do care about the absence of good characters (and specifically Ellen Shaw). The good news is that ALIEN: COVENANT does indeed bring the horror so if you’re just craving monsters in space (nothing wrong with that) you might prefer this to PROMETHEUS. I have to say I dig the old-school shadowy stalking humanoid creature that lurks in the first two ALIEN films a lot more than the spazzy lizard-y beast that whips around in this newfangled flick. Maybe my eyes are too slow but the damn thing reminded me of HALLE BERRY in CATWOMAN and that’s never a good thing. I’m also not completely on board with a late in the game shower-kill that feels like it’s lifted from the phony slasher film at the beginning of BLOW OUT. It’s so out of place and shoehorned and what kind of person wants to have sex in a shower right after all of their friends have been slaughtered? Just like skin-job David’s claims that he loves Elizabeth Shaw while he attempts to exterminate all of humanity, it doesn’t pass the believable behavior/motive smell test.

But who am I kidding? I’m going to buy ALIEN: COVENANT on DVD and watch the heck out of it for years. I’m just going to have to file in my head in close proximity to the underwhelming ALIEN 3 (which is also visually stunning, has a few indelible scenes and heartlessly betrays beloved characters) and ALIEN RESURRECTION (which is also thought provoking, squirm inducing and fatally miscast. Sorry, WINONA ). Don’t go by me. I know a few folks whose opinions I trust who preferred ALIEN: COVENANT to PROMETHEUS, I myself did not. I know I’m supposed to be judging this flick on its own terms (as a hybrid mutation thinly connected to the animal that inspired it) but I just can’t seem to. Maybe I have an exaggerated sense of loyalty to go along with my heightened sense of betrayal. I don’t know, I’m really A-OK with judging a movie purely from an emotional non-technical level. It’s my prerogative as a red-blooded (as opposed to white) non-synthetic. I’ve already been a good soldier and suspended my disbelief; my common sense and my understanding of human behavior– do I really have to suspend my need for an engaging protagonist too?

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Tags: General Horror

Split (2016)

June 22nd, 2017 · 6 Comments

Holy Toledo, I dug me some SPLIT. And I’ve been suffering a miserable movie track record lately! I found ALIEN: COVENANT to be a profound disappointment, I thought the abysmally titled RINGS was an atrocious snooze-fest and IT COMES AT NIGHT though undeniably impressive, made me want to hang myself. SPLIT is a good time! It’s got what I call “Joie de horreur.” I couldn’t wait to see what happened next and it’s so genuinely entertaining that it’s easy to forgive whatever little (or not so little) lapses in logic might occur. In fact, the film’s overall goofy weirdness tends to automatically transform its missteps and wonky reasoning into campy charm. I don’t know if it was its shameless misrepresentation of multiple personality disorder (see also RAISING CAIN) or its unabashed exaltation of the great BETTY BUCKLEY (see also CARRIE) but this angel of a movie inadvertently gave me the DE PALMA thriller fix I had no idea I was craving so darn badly. If NANCY ALLEN showed up, I could have died a happy man right there on my cat-shredded couch.

Please believe my sincerity when I tell you I mean this as a compliment- SPLIT not only reminded me of a delicious DE PALMA psychobabble sundae, it also made me feel like I was watching an extraordinary new breed of mutant LIFETIME movie (sorta like GONE GIRL). Three innocent teen girls (including bunny-faced ANYA TAYLOR-JOY of THE WITCH fame) are abducted from a mall (KING OF PRUSSIA MALL, the same joint I rented my very first VHS tapes from!) and kept prisoner by a madman with a ton of personalities and an enviable wardrobe. Bring a snack! This is the type of movie that if you caught it on TV, you’d never be able to change the channel or go back to sleep. Yes, it hit me in my LIFETIME zone and I found myself just as trapped as those girls. The only thing that softened the tension for me was the fact that I felt so comfortable in the lunatic’s living space and really related to his decorating style (especially the child alternate’s room with the stuffed animals). I realize now that the absolute perfect window for me is one that is drawn with a crayon. Let’s face it; I wouldn’t try to escape. Is that bad?

Don’t worry, I’m not forgetting JAMES McAVOY, he gets his own paragraph. Who is this guy? I barely noticed him in those X MEN movies and I didn’t make it past 30 minutes of VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN but he’s truly a wonder to behold in SPLIT. I can’t remember the last time I witnessed an actor so gleefully reveling in the boundless possibilities of his craft before. He’s completely free and fearless and you can’t take your eyes off of him. I’m sure somebody with a keener ear than mine could find faults with his delivery but his overall effervescence sold me completely.

And I have to say, even though this film’s representation of a dissociated identity disorder/multiple personality disorder is outdated, cartoonish and bordering on irresponsible, I can’t help being intoxicated by it. Maybe it’s just residual affiliation left over from my preteen obsession with SYBIL but I’m too intrigued by this questionably accurate construct to let it go. Even if multiple personalities don’t exist as this persistent Hollywood trope suggests, I think there is a useful truth about the fluidity of personal identity being represented that we all can relate to and recognize in ourselves. Hasn’t everyone had the experience of seeing different sides of themselves emerge when confronted by difficult situations? Is it uncommon to fear that an emotion might take you over, that if you were to express your anger fully you’d be in danger of becoming a monster? Who doesn’t want to regress back to the simple joys of childhood when reality becomes hideous? I guess what I’m saying is whatever this presentation of mental illness lacks in the accuracy department, I think it makes up for by relaying a bigger truth about the human condition. That’s my rationalization anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

I know I’m super late to the game and get zero cool points for gushing over a highly successful mainstream movie by a popular director six months after its release but this all does my heart good anyway. It’s a solid reminder that people can still surprise you after you have completely given up on them. I not only disagreed that THE VISIT was a return to form for M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN, I also thought THE VISIT was one of the most annoying motion pictures ever made.

But now I’m letting bygones be bygones. I’m even going to join the rest of the world and erase that faux-documentary THE BURIED SECRET OF M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN from my memory banks. It’s a good thing to have a director out there interested in the darker, more mysterious side of life making decent films again. A rising tide lifts all boats! Maybe now some more performance-reliant character driven independent horror films will get made- who knows? Plus, I have to give M. NIGHT his rightful due for consistently showcasing the super glamorous city of Philadelphia, the home of Kindertrauma Kastle, in the most complimentary light possible. In the end though, I’m most happy with the film’s bold conclusion. As we all know, M. KNIGHT is notorious for his twist endings. In this particular case, the ending actually opens the film up and expands its universe, increasing the possibilities. Whereas, I think the lion’s share of his previous rug-pulls do the exact opposite. I guess it could be argued that I enjoyed this because my expectations were low but the reality is, an exceptional performance (and a heaping dollop of BETTY BUCKLEY) goes a long way. Your mileage may vary but for me, SPLIT is just what the doctor ordered.

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Tags: General Horror · If Loving Nancy Allen is Wrong... I Don't Want to Be Right!

It Comes at Night (2017)

June 15th, 2017 · 6 Comments

There’s this song by a band called THE CHAMELEONS that has haunted me for decades. It’s called “Swamp Thing” and it’s so epic in my head. It starts out stomping ominously and then it twists into some kind of dark poetic hurricane and then it breaks into this strange inspirational anthem type-thing. I’m not sure exactly what it’s about but I always got a sense that it was generally about withstanding the inevitable storms of life and living to see better weather. Anyway, there’s a line in the song “When the world is too much with me…” which particularly resonates in my noggin. I always assumed it amounted to “When things get to be too much” and so I’d use it to advise myself like, “The world is too much with you- you should go to bed.” A little tiny bit o’ research (i.e. Google) has led me to understand it’s probably a reference to a poem by William Wordsworth entitled “The World is Too Much With Us” which is about how maybe you should stop selling your soul to materialism and go for a walk in the woods. This is good advice! The other day the world was “too much with me” and instead of going to the woods, I went to the movie theater to escape and find solace and boy, was I ever so sorry I did.

And yes, I do go to horror movies to feel better and lift my spirits. They’re thrilling, are often about overcoming adversity and if all else fails, tend to make your problems seem quaint in comparison. I didn’t know much about IT COMES AT NIGHT, which is how I like it. Based on the trailer, it looked like the perfect antidote because it apparently featured a cabin, lots of lantern light and a threatening red door. I did know it was from the fine folks at A24 and that should have clued me in that it wasn’t going to be traditional fare but hey, I was desperate and how could I resist this film’s intriguing title? I can’t criticize IT COMES AT NIGHT for being a bad movie because it’s not a bad movie; it’s fantastic, it’s challenging, it’s art! The acting (jeez, that JOEL EDGERTON– he couldn’t be better) is exceptional, the writing keeps you on your toes and I love the whole look and feel of it. There are all these great earthy, muted woodsy hues and it feels lived in and it’s welcomingly housebound. I love a movie with a limited setting (I could hang out in 10 CLOVERFILED LANE, all day!) but this movie kicked me in the gut. It’s basically an avalanche of dread (as it has a right to be – who said horror is fun?) and I myself, had a hard time crawling out from under it. I did end up respecting its gloomy consistency but I have a feeling it’s going on my list of movies I’ll never watch again.

Can I think it’s semi-brilliant and also hate it? It’s basically everything I wanted to escape when I went to the theater. It seems to have a real problem with William Wordsworth too because it wants you to know that even if you strip away industry, technology and modern social constructs, paranoid, poisonous humans will find a way to commit the worst atrocities under the guise of protecting their own. They even drug a lovable dog into this chunky porridge of desolation! I wasn’t having it, I wasn’t having it one bit. You know when Pieter Bruegel the Elder‘s painting “The Triumph of Death” provides a lively respite from the persistent morbidity, you’re in trouble.

Oh, I forgot to tell you what it’s about! There’s a plague and so everybody has gone insane and these two families try to join forces to better their survival chances and then destroy each other instead. It’s super stressful and then the worst possible conclusion happens (I won’t reveal the ending but there’s an ultimate moment of inhumanity that results in some of the most authentic howls of grief I’ve ever heard in a movie (ELVIS’ granddaughter RILEY KEOUGH really goes there-she’s tops). I had to sneak into WONDER WOMAN afterwards just to clear my head (I would have done that anyway). So, in closing, I do not recommend this movie if you’re looking for a good time and now I’m going to listen to some records by THE CHAMELEONS. I dunno, it was too much for me and yet not enough for me. Maybe I’m getting sensitive in my old age? Anyway, if writer/director TREY EDWARD SHULTZ was trying to ruin my day….success! I just want to to high-five this film’s indisputable craftsmanship and its impeccable performances (especially EDGERTON and KEOUGH) and then tip-toe away from it, never looking back…

…but I can’t stop thinking about it and now I’ve got another line from that CHAMELEONS song stuck in my head, “Stop staring at the ground”.

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Tags: General Horror

Four Underrated Final Girls by Mathew A.

April 13th, 2017 · 3 Comments

Hello, Unk! The twitch to write about horror movies doesn’t hit me often, but when it does I immediately think of you. You are forever my #1, Kindertrauma.

I started to write another piece about underrated horror flicks (I have LOTS of thoughts on Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2), but then I realized there was something else I needed to get off my chest. That “something” is a love of final girls who don’t necessarily get their due. If you are like me and inherently understand that Sarah Michelle Gellar should’ve been the final girl in IKWYDLS instead of whiny Jennifer Love Hewitt, then you are awesome and you probably see where I’m going with this post. If not, don’t worry. You might still be awesome. Perhaps you just have a soft spot for J-Love. I will forgive you.

As I’ve mentioned before, “underrated” is a term that doesn’t mean much; what I consider underrated might be totally different than what you consider underrated. It doesn’t really matter. It gives me an excuse to write about horror movies and the final girls who might be a little under the radar compared to Laurie Strode, Sydney Prescott, Nancy Thompson… the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, I love Laurie as much as the next horror fanatic, but we’ve been there and done that to death. Let’s dig in. Oh, and SPOILER WARNING, obviously.

Rachel Carruthers (Halloween 4-5)

Played perfectly by actress Ellie Cornell, Rachel is the best unsung heroine in the Halloween franchise. To be honest, Halloween 4 is an underrated movie in general. It was actually the first Halloween movie I saw, so nostalgia might be fueling this a bit. I don’t care. I’m telling you, this movie holds up. And a big reason for that is the character of Rachel. She has the unenviable task of filling the shoes formerly filled by Laurie Strode, and she is more than up for it. She’s equal parts tough and kind, and she’s more responsible than any teen in her situation has any right being. Most of all, she’s just incredibly likable. If you’ve seen her in action, hopefully you understand what I mean. There’s just *something* about her that makes you root for her and willingly follow her to the depths of Haddonfield Hell.

P.S. Halloween 5, while enjoyable in parts, kinda did Rachel dirty. SHE DESERVED MORE, I tell ya!

Yasmine (Frontier(s))

In the mid-2000s, French horror films had quite a moment. Remember Inside and High Tension? Martyrs? They were bloody, nihilistic, and pretty grim, especially compared to their American counterparts. While I enjoyed these films, I don’t really find myself coming back for repeated viewings, mostly because I look at horror films as an equivalent to comfort food. That being said, let’s give Yasmine (Karina Testa) her due.

Frontier(s) seems influenced by Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its ilk, and much like poor Sally from the abovementioned classic, Yasmine is PUT THROUGH THE RINGER. She takes a beating, both literally and figuratively, to the point where it almost makes you want to stop watching. Luckily for us, Yasmine is way stronger than she looks. Right when you think she’s at the point of giving up, she digs in her heels and brings forth some spectacularly bloody vengeance on her captors. Speaking of…

Erin Harson (You’re Next)

I know, I know… this movie is more action/thriller than horror, but don’t think I’m letting that stop me. Erin (played by the most beautiful woman in the world, Sharni Vinson) is a force to be reckoned with, and I appreciate that. The “home invasion” genre in horror is certainly popular, but I for one don’t love it. The protagonists typically make terrible decisions, and rarely do they fight back against the intruders in a way that is cathartic. The movies might be more realistic in that sense, but I don’t watch horror films for realism, nor do I watch them to see average people getting tortured throughout the length of the movie. I LOVE that the filmmakers gave Erin a reason for being a badass, and it actually made sense! She’s a charming, one-woman killing machine, and it’s glorious to behold. Thanks to Erin and her survivalist skills, I would much rather watch this movie than other, more popular home invasion flicks (e.g., The Strangers) where the homeowners are pretty much intruder fodder. Please don’t hold it against me.

Chris Higgins (Friday the 13th Part 3)

This might be a controversial choice, and it’s what got me thinking about this topic in the first place. Chris Higgins (played by Dana Kimmell) is not discussed very often. Perhaps she is overshadowed by Ginny Field, the (admittedly awesome) final girl from Part 2. Yes, Ginny is super smart and spunky, and the way she used Jason’s mother issues against him at the end of that film was genius. But I feel like you already know that. Most horror fans have come to this realization. Chris, on the other hand, never really gets the recognition she deserves. Hear me out.

I will admit that Chris is not very likable. Don’t get me wrong, I know being likable and sweet is not a requirement for a great final girl. I’m just thinking of reasons why other people might not appreciate her. Chris comes off as slightly cold and distant, which is either part of her character or just the way Kimmell was as an actress. I happen to appreciate it, but I naturally gravitate towards cold or slightly unlikable characters. Also, let’s not forget, Chris was dealing with past trauma involving Jason. It’s an icky subplot in the movie, but it also gives you all the more reason to root for her when she kicks his ass during the climax. And HOLY HELL, kick his ass she does!

I can’t think of any other Friday the 13th heroine who gets the best of Jason quite like Chris Higgins. I won’t give you a complete rundown of every little thing she does to take Jason down, but believe me; she earns her “final girl” title like no other. It’s fun to watch, and it’s thanks to Chris that I find myself coming back to Part 3 more often than the other sequels.

Well, there you have it, folks. Can you think of any other underrated ladies in the “final girl” pantheon? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Tags: General Horror

Get Out and The Belko Experiment

March 29th, 2017 · 2 Comments

I visited New York City last weekend (shout out to the FORBIDDEN PLANET store that sold me SEVERIN’s’s excellent DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. DVD with the sublimely timely doc on the history of 42nd Street movie theaters!). You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the Bramford Building from ROSEMARY’S BABY looming over a baffled Central Park covered in mid-March daffodil-slaughtering snow. As my friend and I ventured to cross a particularly hazardous unplowed curb, I caught from the corner of my eye a figure moving up somewhat suspiciously close. The one thing that’s difficult for me to adjust to in New York as opposed to Philly is that people are way more comfortable getting up in your personal space. New York is way too crowded to afford you the good three or four feet of buffer room I’m used to. My instinct was to dodge but my friend’s impulse, miraculously, was to grasp the wobbly stranger by the forearm, pull him out of the slush he was faltering in and land him safely on the sidewalk. Oh, the guy wasn’t trying to assail us, he was falling…and my friend helped him! Such strange and unusual alien customs in this city…

Did I mention that the falling guy was black? Would I have so quickly imagined him as a potential threat if he wasn’t? Well, it’s me we’re talking about here so, yes. Honestly, anybody who isn’t a mewing kitten with a pink bow on its head is eligible for suspicion in my book. Still, I felt a tinge of guilt that I had alarm bells going off in my head at the exact moment my friend saw an opportunity to assist someone in need. I blamed my moment of self-reflection on the brilliant GET OUT. Suddenly I really wanted my friend to see it too but it was sold out everywhere and had been every day since its release (according to an usher I eavesdropped on). I don’t know what to add to the conversation about GET OUT besides the admission above and the confession that I thought I understood the movie but then realized later that I missed a few dozen layers. I’m sure when I see it again I’ll find I’ve missed a few more. Like the seventies social horror films it was inspired by, it’s clearly going to be a gift that will keep on giving. Plus, how could I resist the rarity of my love of horror movies and my love of CATHERINE KEENER movies converging? Geez, unless you count 8MM (99′) as horror, you’d have to go all the way back to KEENER’s ill-fated horror convention date with KEVIN CORRIGAN in WALKING AND TALKING (‘96) for such a alignment (it’s sentences like that, that worry me).

Anyway, I loved it and I’m happy that a new generation gets its own lightening rod horror movie that’s genuinely fascinating to view and discuss. If you dig plunging into profound paranoia over being pummeled over the head with the usual pandering power fantasies GET OUT is pure gold. It’s kind of sad that it seems so unusual to watch a horror movie where the art is actually on the screen speaking for itself rather than biding time waiting to become a purchasable T-shirt or identity-signaling button. As much as GET OUT specifically speaks on racism (both conscious and unconscious) there’s something universal about its depiction of the threatening discomfort of being a minority in a larger group. Plus, putting race aside for just a wee-second here, I gotta say rich people in general are working my last nerve these days. Am I alone here? Without ruining the movie, I still have a burning Sterno can of outrage in my chest for the wealthy and blind (!) gallery owner with the gall to appropriate another person’s artistic vision. I’m also pretty sure that at one point ALLISON WILLIAMS did a super creepy smile thing that curdled me to my core and I have to salute that.

Back to New York, with GET OUT sold out three weeks into release, we had no choice but to see THE BELKO EXPERIMENT in a half-filled room on its opening day. Aw, poor BELKO (also a BLUMHOUSE joint) is actually pretty darn good too but in a different way. Like GET OUT, I can easily associate BELKO with the moment that my friend decided to help a stranger and I decide to fend for myself but unlike the slow mounting horror found in the previous film, the latter is surprisingly shocking and brutal. I know it doesn’t look it, but for a mainstream movie BELKO has quite the sadistic streak. I don’t know if it was because I was far from home and feeling kinda vulnerable but I found it remarkably nerve wracking up until its cartoonish final act. In truth, this film hits me where my nightmares live. It’s about being stuck with (and at the mercy of) other people and it’s also about dealing with soulless dog-eat-schmuck corporate ghouls. It’s almost as timely as GET OUT if only it was released about three more months from now. The audience I saw it with loved it and screamed and laughed in the right places and I know at least one jaw hit the sticky floor at one point because that poor jaw was mine.

The weather is about to change. Soon the Bramford Building is going to be looking down on daffodils again. It’s not too late to see either of these fine flicks in the theater if you haven’t already done so. Instant classic GET OUT is perfect for those who enjoy their frights fine tuned and those who prefer to be grabbed by the lapels and slapped around a bit should sign up for BELKO. Both of these thoughtful movies do a fine job of reminding us that horror films can say so much more than “boo!”…

On my last night in New York we watched a documentary on the making of ROSEMARY’S BABY and I laughed when FARROW told the tale of how POLANSKI instructed her to walk into oncoming traffic because “nobody will hit a pregnant woman.” The next day, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (78′) just happened to be on TV and I noted how the ending still gave me goose bumps. It was followed by CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND but only CHUCK BERRY was dead at that point, unlike two days later when CHUCK BARRIS would be dead too. At the bus station the Philadelphia bound were separated from the New Yorkers and the late 4 o’clock Philly bus people were separated from the early 5 o’clock Philly bus people. I instantly related to those who were riding on the same bus as me but we were all herded like cattle and we all dragged luggage like pods from outer space. My coat is so old that it has holes in its pockets. Getting on board the bus my paperback fell through my pocket and onto the wet street. The man in back of me picked it up and kindly handed it to me. People are so nice in New York.

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Tags: General Horror

Life (2017)

March 28th, 2017 · No Comments

Hey, I’m absolutely allowed to enjoy a not-so-good movie if I feel like it, right? LIFE is all kinds of mundane, its monster is inconsistently threatening and the script overall is painfully mechanical to the point where somebody actually pulls out a corny copy of “Goodnight Moon”. I’m guessing LIFE’s largest selling point is its two high profile male leads (RYAN REYNOLDS, JAKE GYLLENHAAL) but only one of them successfully registers and he’s the one with way less screen time. It’s like the title/name LIFE wasn’t satisfied being attached to the blandest cereal in the world and the least exciting board game (Sorry, I’m a die hard CLUE fan) so it had to go attach itself to the most routine sci-fi horror picture too! And yet I don’t care because I love monsters in space so much that I’ll take it (even if this one sometimes resembles THE NEW SCHMOO). You are talking to a guy who owns and enjoys the catastrophic SUPERNOVA and feels the need to watch both LEVIATHAN and DEEP STAR SIX on a seasonal basis. Yes, there is something horribly wrong with me. Why, I even watched THE RIFT the other day on COMET TV! I can’t and won’t be stopped (I realize I named a lot of underwater monsters rather than space monsters there but same-diff. BTW- QUEEN LATIFAH being throttled by a swarm of disgruntled jellyfish in SPHERE (1998) counts too!)!

Here’s the thing, I absolutely loved LIFE’s super bonkers ending. I only wish I had a copy of the movie here now so that I could keep rewinding it over and over again. It’s so pessimistic and cruel and downright LOVECRAFTian and the way the music soars and repeats and twists the knife in such a mocking and unapologetic way is glorious (fantastic work JON EKSTRAND!). I mean, it’s not exactly on par with the hand-grab from CARRIE but it’s got a similar churning nightmare vibe and then there’s this soulless God’s eye aerial view that works as the final nasty nail in mankind’s coffin. Does it make up for the rest of the movie? For me…yes, I think so. I dug it so much that all was forgiven. In closing, I can’t recommend this movie unless you too happen to have a soft spot for somewhat clunky, embarrassingly earnest fledgling science fiction films (particularly those that swing from semi-boring to semi-incredible with exactly one nuclear blast of pitch perfect exquisite horror). Maybe just go look at your DVD collection and if you see FORBIDDEN WORLD, GALAXY OF TERROR and CREATURE starring back at you- then this flick should sufficiently stir your TANG too. Don’t be fooled by its big budget and big names-LIFE works best when you don’t take it too seriously.

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Tags: General Horror

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

March 14th, 2017 · No Comments

When I was a little kid living in California during the seventies, I’ll never forgot one of our neighbors (who worked in the biz!) handed out small movie posters of KING KONG (1976) for Halloween! I was just the type of weird kid who would much rather have a miniature advertisement featuring a giant ape crushing a plane while straddling the World Trade Center than any known form of candy (keep in mind that SOUR PATCH KIDS had not been invented yet). This past Friday when I went to the very first showing (Thursday is for cheaters) of KONG: SKULL ISLAND, the disgruntled dude that took my ticket handed me just such a miniature poster featuring the brand spanking new KONG movie’s promotional artwork! Yes, I got sorta giddy and yes I rolled it carefully, tied it with a napkin from the concession stand (I’m a genius) and put it in a protective plastic grocery bag that I just happened to have in my back pocket from walking my niece’s dog, Nelson. So basically, I was sold on this movie before I sat down in a chair- just so you know.

I feel guilty that I haven’t been writing many reviews for current movies lately. It’s not that I don’t go see them it’s just that I’ve needed the escapism of film so much that I am loath to taint the therapeutic experience with critical thought. Scanning entertainment with a laser eye is not a luxury my mental health can afford right now. These days when I’m watching a movie and my brain tries to be smart and point out illogical discrepancies, I politely tell my brain to shut the hell up and remind it how little its annoying opinion has gotten us thus far. There are so few enjoyable places in the world and I refuse to hand over the haven of the multiplex. If I want a nonstop mudslide of inconsequential jabbering I’ve got the Internet for that. I’m not talking about leaving your brain at the door when you see a movie, I’m talking about taking your brain, wrapping a bonnet on its head, shoving it in a baby carriage and pushing it down a long hill in the opposite direction of the theater, preferably one of those steep San Francisco hills as seen in WHAT’S UP DOC?. Hopefully it will run into two guys transporting a large plate of glass.

Naturally, I had a fantastic time with KONG: SKULL ISLAND. I left the theater feeling ten years younger and with my posture improved. For a would-be blockbuster it’s rather muted and easy on the eyes; obviously borrowing visual tips from the more grounded cinema of decades ago. It clearly has an aspiration to ape (haha) APOCALYPSE NOW and hey, there’s nothing wrong with setting your sights high. The visual effects are seamless and I’m looking forward to never having to discuss CGI again. It’s as convincing as any dream and that’s good enough for me. The nostalgic tone is solidified by the extensive eclectic cast who I can easily envision being featured in tiny profiles squares at the bottom of a disaster movie poster. JOHN GOODMAN rules as usual, SAMUEL L. JACKSON menaces like a pro and JOHN C. REILLY steals every scene not nailed down. In addition, I found BRIE LARSON fetching and I think SHEA WHIGHAM is the coolest. Plus I love KONG. He’s more than a giant monster to me. He so perfectly represents all the beautiful wildlife that we’re all going to burn in hell for destroying…. Oops, I guess I didn’t leave the real world behind as much as I thought. It all boils down to this; If you’re in the mood to see a giant monkey punch a giant octopus in the face- this is your best bet!

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Tags: General Horror

The Evil Within (2016)

March 3rd, 2017 · No Comments

Wow, I just woke up from the craziest, most impossibly elaborate dream(s) and I’m definitely blaming super bonkers THE EVIL WITHIN rather than the LAVERNE & SHIRLEY marathon I chased it down with. THE EVIL WITHIN was written and directed by the late ANDREW GETTY (grandson of billionaire Jean Paul Getty) and it’s one of the strangest, trippiest and relentlessly peculiar movies I’ve seen in a long time. It’s like PHANTASM meets DOMINICK AND EUGENE splashed with the uncomfortable intimacy of THE ROOM and dipped in the headache-baiting insanity of 1971’s maddening MICKEY ROONEY monstrosity, THE MANIPULATOR. It took me too close to places I didn’t want to go and it hurt my poor little head! Is there enough time on the doomsday clock for this flick to become a cult movie? Apparently this oddity was filmed about ten years ago (there is a startling scene in which the late MATTHEW MCGRORY (Tiny Firefly!) shows up and he passed away back in 2005!) but went unfinished due to GETTY’s untimely death. To all those involved with making sure this flick finally saw the light of day I say thank you! You are great people!

I know the world wasn’t asking for a movie about a mentally challenged man (a fearless FREDERICK KOEHLER! Yay, Chip from KATE & ALLIE!) who befriends an evil entity he meets in a mirror (horror legend MICHAEL BERRYMAN of THE HILLS HAVE EYES and DEADLY BLESSING fame) that convinces him that murder makes you smarter but here it is! No, I did not appreciate the first victim being an orange tabby but I was able to move past that thanks to the presence of the delightful KIM DARBY as a snippy caseworker named Mildy. Heck, this movie has got all types of folks running around in it! You’ve got your SEAN PATRICK FLANERY (SAW 3) as rather self-centered brother John, DINA MEYER (Dizz from STARSHIP TROOPERS) as his long-suffering girlfriend Lydia and then comedic actor TIM BAGLEY randomly shows up to make things even more off kilter. The real star of this movie though is its anything goes mind-bending visuals and its impressively persuasive surrealism. Sure, the script wanders towards the verbose a few too many times but that didn’t stop me from rewinding a few scenes in awe or my jaw from hitting the floor during the flicks baroque and beyond bizarre grand finale (which kinda reminded me of the ever creepy auditorium scene from THE REDEEMER: SON OF SATAN aka CLASS REUNION MASSACRE (1978).

THE EVIL WITHIN is available on your favorite VOD services and on ye old timey DVD format today. If you dig strange, artsy, hallucinogenic, one of a kind flicks, this is for you! Heck, just check out the trailer below! Nuff ‘said!

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Tags: General Horror