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Don’t Be Afraid of The Remake: Ten Other T.V. Movies Ready For the Big Screen

August 24th, 2011 · 33 Comments

With a big budget remake of DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK opening this Friday and talks of KOLCHAK leaping to multiplexes in the near future, it seems the remake machine is wising up to something many of our readers have known for a long time; that some of the best horror tales in existence spawn from the small screen. I present to you now a list of ten other T.V. movies that I think might deserve a big screen treatment, Be warned I left out STEPHEN KING classics like IT & SALEM’S LOT because nobody needs my nudging to remake KING and I skipped over some of my absolute favorites like SATAN’S TRIANGLE, BLACK NOON, DYING ROOM ONLY and MANY MORE simply because I either could not convince myself that they could be done better or I wasn’t sure modern audiences would know what to do with them. There are so many great T.V. movies that a list of ten was not easy to compile so if I’ve left out any of your favorites, feel free to sing their praises in the comment section!

10. THE BERMUDA DEPTHS (1978)

I’m just going to get this one out of the way right off the bat. I’m not sure if it should be filed under horror, action or romance but I do know that its fans are some of the most passionately devoted out there. A story involving a giant sea turtle may be a hard sell in this cynical age but it may also be exactly what the doctor ordered if the correct tone is established. In fact, if done right it could appeal to a wide variety of ages. The original T.V. movie did indeed receive a theatrical release in foreign countries so perhaps TBD’s leap to the big screen is not nearly as farfetched as one might think. Screw AVATAR sequels, JAMES CAMERON should be all over this epic oceanic lovelorn adventure.

9. DUEL (1971)

I pity the fool who tries to follow in STEVEN SPIELBERG’s footsteps but if it’s ever going to be attempted this is a good place to start. The original was so well received that it graduated to play in not only European theaters but in US theaters as well. An update could add a class war element with the main character being a snooty modern urbanite and the phantom truck driver being a faceless good ol’ boy/ mudflap girl enthusiast. In any case, car movies tend to do well at the box office, so jack up the stunts and let her roll.

8. MR. BOOGEDY (1986)

This family friendly, haunted house comedy is a no-brainer. Go gross, go goofy, go 3-D, rake in the dough and leave BEETLEJUICE in the dust. Many folks have fond memories of the original but even kids unfamiliar with the title would be chomping at the bit to check out this funky phantom. Clueless Disney owns the rights so don’t hold your breath but the original led to BRIDE OF BOOGEDY, so I see major franchise potential. C’mon on Disney, this is your chance to make up for lousing up THE HAUNTED MANSION to such a vile degree!

7. HORROR AT 37,000 FEET (1973)

This movie may be hokey but there’s no reason why the remake has to be. In fact, I think this would be a great project for my pal and yours JOHN CARPENTER. Think about it, the story involves a plane carting ancient druid stones that ends up being threatened by its supernatural cargo. It’s basically PRINCE OF DARKNESS in the air! The endangered are small group of people from all walks of life and who has more experience directing folks thrown together and forced to battle side by side against an unknown foe? (Think THE THING, THE FOG, ASSAULT ON P13, etc…) CARPENTER can upgrade the scares and the believability and he’d have a blast getting all metaphysical explaining the cargos power with his very own screenplay (which he’ll surely credit to a fictional entity.) The story even has a dog in it and I know he has worked with canines before!

6. THE SPELL (1977)

There was many a copycat in the wake of the success of CARRIE but this one offers several unique wrinkles. THE SPELL’s vengeful conjuring teen is overweight and not only has a “perfect” sibling but also a hyper critical mother hiding her own powers that she must battle as well. It would be easy as hell to slap this story into a contemporary setting and touch upon current topics of interest like high school bullying and the pressures on teen girls to conform to a certain body type. STEPHEN KING’s novel CARRIE features a plump protagonist, since none of the official adaptations of his work has yet had the nerve to feature this element, here’s a chance to rectify that slight.

5. THE DEMON MURDER CASE (1983)

History has shown that possession movies, particularly ones based on “true” stories tend to fill theater seats. This tale that takes place in Brookfield, Connecticut where yours truly once resided, is ripe for the picking. Of course you might have some trouble securing rights from the folks who it actually happened to who say it’s all a sham but perhaps they could be quelled by a DVD exclusive documentary focusing on their side of the story. All I know is this movie and the corresponding book “The Devil in Connecticut” scared the living crap out of me once upon a time and that some of the details (the demonic old man with hooves and a charred plaid shirt) true or not, still give me the heebie-jeebies.

4. BAD RONALD (1974)

I don’t know about you but I can’t get enough of BAD RONALD. There’s only so much that can be done on television, so here’s an opportunity to delve even deeper into the psyche of this intriguing character. How about using HEAVENLY CREATURES as an inspiration and showing on screen, in detail, Ronald’s elaborate fantasy world? Nerdy outsider characters seem to be all over the place these days, so how about giving us one who is actually interesting?

3. DON’T GO TO SLEEP (1982)

A little girl comes back from the dead to convince her younger sister to kill the rest of their family. Hey, we need more killer kid movies because nothing is more entertaining! It’s fool proof really because if it fails to convince it will still be funny as hell. The story of course will have to be updated with fancier kills. Has the electric pizza cutter been invented yet? This remake will also get extra points if it casts VALERIE HARPER in the role of Grandma and retains the haunting signature closing shot.

2. TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975)

The truth hurts but it must be said, nobody cares about the first two stories in this trilogy. The best idea would be to make this an all-Zuni doll affair and return to RICHARD MATHESON’s original story title “PREY.” The Zuni fetish doll is a sleeping giant of a horror icon and if Chucky can run for five films and counting, I think little Zuni has the potential to follow suit. By the year 2022, I personally require a Zuni vs. Chucky movie!

1. DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (1981)

Now this one comes with a genuine, pre-existing fanbase. It hardly matters though because how can you beat that title? What horror fan would ignore such a thing on a marquee? They’d have to be thick! Also, here’s a chance to make something specifically for the Halloween season. My advice would be, amp up the atmosphere a couple notches, pour on some extra blood and just sit back and let the story do the rest. How could it not work? Furthermore this classic tale would offer some seriously meaty roles for actors who were up to the challenge. What A-lister in their right mind would pass up the chance to play a mentally challenged person or an unstable mailman? Both roles are Oscar bait! I’m thinking CILLIAN MURPHY as Bubba and MICHAEL CHIKLIS as Otis and maybe KATE JACKSON as Bubba’s mom as a nod to THE SCARECOW AND MRS. KING. What? Why are you looking at me funny? It needs to happen yesterday. Jeez, give me 20 million dollars and I’ll make it myself!

So that’s my ten and I overlooked only a couple hundred. I wouldn’t talk T.V. movies without asking T.V. movie gal pal Amanda by Night for her two cents, so for ten more T.V. movies that deserve big screen makeovers jump over to MADE FOR TV MAYHEM and check out Amanda’s top ten picks HERE!

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Tags: General Horror · Giant Turtles · Kinder-Topix · Trauma Au Courant

The Reef (2010)

August 22nd, 2011 · 3 Comments

They say sharks need to keep moving in order to survive but sometimes the best way to move forward is by going backwards, breaking things down, simplifying and focusing on the essentials. Shark movies seem to be getting more outrageous and ridiculous with each passing year (thanks Syfy Channel!) but THE REEF defiantly swims against the current campy stream. Directed by one of the fine folks (ANDREW TRAUCKI) responsible for 2007’s excellent shock-crock flick BLACK WATER, THE REEF is a streamlined, straightforward jaunt unhindered by the typical needless ornamentation. Much like BLACK WATER, one of the ways THE REEF separates itself from the pack is by refusing to rely on CGI and by utilizing actual real live sharks. The result is hyper authentic and hyper engaging. No computer-generated cartoon can compete with the freaky mug Mother Nature slapped on these deadly fish. Maybe sharks are misunderstood but I think it’s okay to be leery of a creature who might chomp all your limbs off and then use your face as a palate cleanser.

The plot is this: Some people are on a boat but then it tips over so they decide to swim for shore but it’s really difficult on account of the relentless shark(s?) trying eat them. Suddenly life’s usual quandaries seem quaint and very far off in the distance, sort of like the dry land that will prevent them from being din-din. TRAUCKI really has a talent for capturing the beauty along with the danger of the untamed world and he’s careful not to shirk on characterization either. We don’t know an extensive amount about the victims here but they seem like people amiable enough not to deserve being chewed apart while screaming for help that will never materialize.

It’s safe to say that JAWS is in no danger of being dethroned as the ultimate shark movie but THE REEF is more than another also-ran as it truly delivers the suspense. It was certainly not necessary for me to keep my legs on the couch while watching this, but I found myself doing so anyway and that should tell you something. Like much survival horror (OPEN WATER, FROZEN) this tale is bound to work more for those cursed with the unfashionable ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes.

TRAUCKI is quoted as saying, “Reality is far more intriguing than fiction” and THE REEF (which is based on a true story) backs his theory nicely. I’m not sure I enjoyed this film as much as I did BLACK WATER but it’s gratifying to see a filmmaker taking the subject of man vs. beast (or vs. nature, or vs. shitty luck) seriously.

THE REEF is now available on Netflix Streaming.

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Tags: General Horror · Giant Turtles · Streaming Alert! · Trauma Au Courant

Final Destination 5

August 16th, 2011 · 14 Comments

The world does not need another FINAL DESTINATION 5 review but look how it’s happening anyway. I’d have reason number one million to hate myself if I neglected to express how impressed I was with it. It’s not every day that a horror franchise lives up to its full potential and the accomplishment seems even more miraculous considering this is a fifth installment of a series whose fourth was its worst. I was prepared for a decent enough time but not prepared for one of the most satisfying endings I’ve ever encountered. Maybe it’s best that FD 5 is currently doing lackluster business and making a future installment less likely because a better cap off to the series would be nearly impossible to achieve. I mean it as a compliment when I say stick a fork in it.

I understand that not everybody is a fan and that makes perfect sense. One need only witness a real catastrophe to know they are far from entertaining. As for myself, the Chicken Little, Cassandra complex, there by the grace of God go I, step on a crack and break your mother’s back, bad omen paranoia that imbues the series speaks loudly to me. Sure, the films can be easily accused of repetition, the franchise has built its own signature structure it adheres to steadily, but the presence of death in the best installments trumps that of most standard horror fare in that it plays by its own rules and fairness be damned. The fantasy of morality and virtue offering a flashlight through the tunnel is nonexistent. When your number is up, your number is up and to quote my dentist, “It may hurt a little.”

FD5’s opening suspension bridge disaster is as extravagant and convincing as a bad dream. There are plenty of 3-D naysayers out there, so allow me my soapbox for dissent. I don’t know if my eyes are extra responsive due to extensive training from MAGIC EYE books or the intake of a multitude of questionable substances but 3-D works for me big time and when done right it still blows my mind. FD5’s director STEPHEN QUALE is fresh off an apprenticeship with JAMES CAMERON and he clearly knows a thing or two about pushing the 3-D limits. I flinched and I may have ducked a tad too. Be that as it may, what makes this addition to the series truly work has little to do with the accomplished special effects. More importantly, I think, is the return to form on the storytelling front and a willingness to leave the door open for real darkness to seep back in.

I should be careful not to oversell, FD5 is refreshingly gratifying and superiorly creative but not so much a masterpiece as simply way better than you’d think. The characters are older and less annoying and seem to have interests outside of being blown up and I was happy to be able to tell them apart from each other. TONY TODD returns as the mysterious coroner and the effect of his creepy presence I wouldn’t underestimate. For long time fans of the series, there are dozens of fun nods to the previous films and the delicious ending I mentioned earlier is far more than the standard cheap rug pull. It will have you backtracking through the rest of the film in your head and realizing just how well earned it is. The wheel is not reinvented but it’s certainly a pleasure seeing it spinning so smoothly and taking turns you wouldn’t anticipate. The series trademark deaths are kicked up a few notches too. In fact one left me seriously disturbed well after the fact. Wow, I can still find myself squeamishly grossed out by witnessing a horrible death. Who knew? Perhaps the best evidence of the film’s success is the way I walked home from the theater: cautiously.

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Tags: General Horror · Trauma Au Courant

Scream 4

April 19th, 2011 · 8 Comments

The WES CRAVEN directed SCREAM 4 gets off to a rocky (Is this a SCREAM or SCARY MOVIE sequel?) start with a parade of patience pushing film-within-film parodies concerning personality free white girls left alone in personality free white houses. The joke aims to poke fun at the redundancy of sequels but comes across more as the pot texting the kettle to call it black. Let’s just say DREW BARRYMORE’s savage demise in the first flick needn’t ever sweat about being dethroned as the strongest opening in the series. Happily though, once the marshmallow fluff commencement scene is scraped from SCREAM 4’s windshield the movie plows forward and starts getting down to business and that business centers on characters with plenty of mileage on them in a setting we’ve been kept away from far too long, the town of Woodsboro.

Series survivor and “celebrity victim” Sidney Prescott (NEVE CAMPBELL) is back in her hometown on a book tour supporting her well received self-help tome “Out of the Darkness”. Dutiful Dewey (DAVID ARQUETTE) has graduated to town sheriff and his once tigress wife Gale (COURTNEY COX) currently climbs the walls of her suburban cage declawed and uninspired. The audience and the denizens of Woodsboro are well aware that Sidney’s homecoming can only mean one thing, that a new batch of grisly murders are about to ensue. It’s notable that Sidney has mellowed to the point of accepting her lot in life. The reality is that no amount of ass-kicking will ever transform Prescott into a warrior/ hero. It’s common knowledge that she’s a cursed figure, an “Angel of death” who is followed by a wave of blood wherever she goes. She can attempt to write herself “out of the darkness,” but it’s only a matter of time before KEVIN WILLIAMS or worse, EHREN KRUGER writes her back in.

SCREAM 4 overloads its plate with zeitgeist gruel. Besides forcing the usual useless reductive “rules” down our throats, it blasts the current plethora of horror remakes, notes the rise of facebook and twitter and finishes things off with a somewhat biting critique of the ever-blurring line between unearned notoriety and legitimate fame. All of that is well and good, if not particularly fresh. Perhaps the movie itself is trapped in the same schema as once-was character Gale, desperately trying to convince itself of its own relevancy and meanwhile needlessly overlooking its own obvious natural charms. The movie battles with itself, tossing about terms like “meta” and “self aware” while struggling to find a balance between the then and the now. It wants to come to terms with its own age, to find meaning in its characters’ struggles, to define the difference between “old” and “mature,” but someone keeps forcing it to make stale celebrity jokes. (The idea that someone might sacrifice their last moments on Earth to utter an out of place punch line I’m assuming came from the aforementioned KRUGER who contributed a script “polishing”. I’ve decided to indiscriminately scapegoat the guy for everything that smacks of hack in the film.)

More shocking than the truly surprising killer reveal in SCREAM 4 is the fact that I loved it regardless of it faults and I don’t mind saying it’s my favorite since the first. It’s not exactly terrifying but it is suspenseful and goddamn it, I love sequels…especially slasher sequels. You can just carve that on my tombstone so there’s no mistake. Sequels offer us a chance to observe characters as they change and grow and the decade plus fermenting period between SCREAMs 3 and 4 allow a type of novel ripening not witnessed since HALLOWEEN H20 (also penned by KEVIN WILLIAMS). If you ask me, age compliments the trio of SCREAM regulars well. Sidney has stopped wincing and rubbing her neck, Dewey has shed his mascot persona and Gale has grown into and certainly earned her trademark crankiness. Sid’s annoying “specialness” is addressed (and then some) as is Gale’s inability to garner appreciation for her invaluable contribution to the saga. SCREAM 4 picks up all the trash that SCREAM 3 impolitely left on the picnic table and that alone makes me a happy camper. Indeed, when we finally uncover the person or persons responsible for the new batch of knife slaughter they dump a bowl of crazy on the floor that easily rivals that which graced the first installment.

Being a bitter hater, the one thing I was not looking forward to (besides enduring a freshening-up on the always spurious “rules”) was getting to know the new younger generation cast. Call it Cousin Oliver Syndrome but I’m always a bit skeptical when youngins are trotted out and expected to be welcomed into the fold without question. Imagine my surprise when EMMA ROBERTS as Sid’s young cousin turned out to be one highly memorable and multilayered slasher “good girl” and HEROESHAYDEN PANNETTIERE, with her raspy voice and Peter Pan hair cut, nearly walked away with the entire film. As messy as some of the generational collisions are executed, these two stand outs (particularly plucky PANNETTIERE) really add a nice dose of effervescent energy to counteract the grounded, near melancholia of the adult players. Faring far less well is MARY MCDONNELL taking over for a “Count me out!” LAUREN GRAHAM in the uncoveted role of “Mom who gets stabbed after bringing in groceries.” (Please tell me she has a deleted scene somewhere that explains why she exists.)

So, SCREAM 4, is a crazy stew of missed opportunities, sometimes trite dialogue and random pointless characters that also miraculously yields a powerfully enthralling villain reveal, some genuine intestine enhanced bloodshed, several good jolty scares and a rare chance to visit with characters that have gotten even more interesting with age and even a few snappy new ones. It may have two left feet under its robe at points but at least there’s nothing as alarmingly embarrassing as certain moments in Parts 2 and 3. (Unless of course you count the clunky BRUCE WILLIS joke.) Most importantly, it does finally offer up one golden glorious “rule” that can actually be put to good use… “Don’t fuck with the original.” There’s a better movie begging to break free for sure and I don’t blame LAUREN GRAHAM for jumping on the first bus out of town, but I’m certainly happy I got to spend some time in Woodsboro again.

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Tags: General Horror · Trauma Au Courant

Scream-a-thon!

April 7th, 2011 · 8 Comments

It’s easy for me to forget how much I was rooting for SCREAM to be a success when it was released way back in 1996. I recall WES CRAVEN and DREW BARRYMORE doing the talk show rounds and I was there on opening day. I watched as it climbed the charts in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and its word-of-mouth staying power victory felt like a personal justification of sorts. The slasher film had finally risen from the grave just as I always hoped and prayed that it would.

One day I had to realize that the Audrey 2 plant I was pointlessly watering was towering over me. The publicity machine behind SCREAM was insatiable and ubiquitous. Eventually I awoke to every borderline personality fan boy nightmare, my lil’ pet movie was undeniably and irrevocably mainstream! Worse still, it had no interest in me and my nerd-flavored goodwill; it was courting a generation younger than me right in front of my face! It was like when Marcia Brady helped that wallflower out only to have the dickens surpass and usurp her. SCREAM wasn’t revitalizing my youth anymore it was pillaging it! What the hell was I getting out of this relationship? SCREAM was happy as a clam. I felt old and betrayed.

Then the wannabe clones arrived, each more vacant and dunderheaded than the last. They marched in wearing Urban Outfitter uniforms, their faces scrubbed and personality free. Smelling a market, Hollywood opened a cage and out they slinked each Friday with posters Photoshopped into oblivion with death scenes fluffier than MATLOCK. I started to hate the floozy named SCREAM, the two faced harlot, the instigator of mediocrity, the murderer of horror! Oh SCREAM, it wasn’t your fault. I had no right to claim you as my own. I’m sorry that I was secretly gleeful when your third outing turned out to be lamer than even I could imagine. That was the end of the millennium. Things were different back then and I’m ashamed at how easily I had forgotten just how original and refreshing SCREAM was upon first discovery.

Sometimes you just need a little distance. You need to clean your palate. You need to let other horror cycles take hold, eclipse, turn sour and fade away. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten together with this past mercurial love. I think we did catch up a couple years ago and it was pleasant enough but nothing passionate. Yet there’s something in the air now, is it spring? I actually do feel a kindling spark of sorts still burning for what once was; both SCREAM and I are older now. Maybe it’s time for a new type of understanding to develop…

SCREAM (1996)

I have to admit this movie still has it going on in all the right places. The mystery of what’s under its hood has long been discovered but the opening scene still packs a bittersweet wallop. CRAVEN does more than simply unnerve with DREW’s inaugural attack, there is such a lovely tragic element to it as well. Armed with KEVIN WILLIAMS’ slightly overrated, yet inarguably innovative script, CRAVEN the director is at the height of his powers. There’s hardly a superfluous moment anywhere and the whole ride has a wonderfully smooth yet forceful momentum. Unlike many of its imitators, SCREAM looks crisp and clean without being too slick and losing its gravity supplying sense of the natural and every day. (Sadly director of photography MARK IRWIN and CRAVEN parted ways after SCREAM but funnily enough IRWIN did go on to do SCARY MOVIE 3.) So much of the look of SCREAM has been duplicated and parodied that it is easy to forget just how handsome a film it is. Maybe I’m just a sucker for grassy hills and sunsets.

SCREAM of course is famous for being self-referential and for pointing out at every turn the tropes and “rules” theoretically ingrained in slasher films. Personally many of the assumptions repeated about those films I find to be debatable broad clichés that limit our understanding of the genre. Having said that I think that I sometimes woefully miss the undeniable truth that SCREAM, in its heart of hearts, is a love letter and a reverent shrine to slasher movies and cinema in general and for that I want to kiss it all over its ghost mask. Really has one movie ever had a boner for another movie the way SCREAM has a boner for JOHN CARPENTER’s HALLOWEEN? There’s a big difference between tribute and condescension and although SCREAM’s playfulness can grate at times, it’s not the facetious lark I sometimes falsely remember it as. The truth is that even though it can be way too name-droppy and quipy for its own good, it does under its conventional mall-approved smile hide a genuinely perverse sadomasochistic streak.

I came away from watching SCREAM again with two major revelations: the first is that as far as “final girls” go I’m not the biggest Sidney Prescot fan. Her “sexual anorexia” and morbid martyrdom papers are in order but as portrayed by the perpetually strained NEVE CAMPBELL I find her difficult to believe and strangely unsympathetic. “I’m sorry if my traumatized life is an inconvenience to your perfect existence!” she spews and I just kind of want to wring her neck. Whereas most “final girls” have walked anonymously alone with survival their only reward, Sydney has the attention and concern of her entire community and it just kind of irks me. Plus I think partying on the one-year anniversary of your mother’s brutal death is tacky. Stranger than my newfound ambivalence toward Sid is my newfound, heart-eyed affection for the refreshingly direct persona of Gale Weathers (COURTNEY COX). I’m not happy about this development either but there it is. For me, Weathers is the most entertaining character in the lot and I appreciate that her disposition atypically softens rather than hardens. I know she is supposed to be a callous careerist but at least she can finish a sentence without a pop culture reference.

Even though Sidney Prescott affection eludes me I don’t have a hard time recognizing SCREAM’s classic status. It sets out to turn expectations on their head and it succeeds. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the series is its ability to stand without a consistent killer in its spine. The monster in SCREAM is fluid, an empty shell identity that any person or persons can inhabit. While we are here, why not let us take a cursory peak at the sequels that followed…

SCREAM 2 (1997)

The opening kill in SCREAM 2, set at a premiere for a film based on the events in the first movie not only kicks the meta to a new level but perfectly captures the excitement and enthusiasm that surrounded the bourgeoning franchise at the time. I’d love to give the series some props for confronting criticisms that it presented an all white universe by including African Americans in the sequel, but since every black character shown is presented the exact same way I’m not sure I can. Be that as it may this is a sequel that does a fine enough job of transporting the working elements of the previous installment into semi-fresh terrain. There is one scene that I always dread though. I live in fear of JERRY O’CONNELL singing, “I think I love you” on the cafeteria table. It upsets me more than any death in the entire series. I find it too embarrassing to withstand and I have to look away and cover my ears. Other than that, it’s mostly gravy. Sidney as “Cassandra” somehow works and I’m all about LAURIE METCALF & BUFFY. No matter its over bloated nature, I can’t say this installment isn’t fun.

SCREAM 3 (2000)

A huge step down for sure but I remember part three being a lot worse than it actually is. If the revelation of the killer was not so humdrum it might have been almost good. SCREAM 3 transports the action to Hollywood, which adds an alienating, navel-gazing atmosphere that the series could have done without. Cameos from the Weinstein stable in the form of Jay and Silent Bob set the tin ear tone. Dead Randy (JAMIE KENNEDY) showing up via videotape to spout complete gibberish as trilogy dogma and an initially amusing turn from PARKER POSEY that nosedives into screechy, flailing-armed stoogery don’t help matters much. Ironically the strongest element may involve Sidney finally digging into the dirt of her dilemma rather than looking down at it from miles above. Again I think that the character of Gale Weathers secretly holds the shindig together and her relationship with Dewey resonates as the closest thing to known human reality in the film. At this point SCREAM seems to have lost track of its horror roots and is happy operating as an ensemble version of MURDER SHE WROTE. Guns and explosions reign supreme and you may find yourself begging for anything that even remotely resembles the inspired garage door kill from the first film.

SO NOW….

I’m totally psyched for the fourth installment. I know that may sound disingenuous after what I just said but I can’t help it. I don’t care that I hate and despise certain elements of the SCREAM series; for the most part it’s wicked nifty and I’m now, against my better judgment, grossly invested in the characters once more. Will my tolerance of Sidney continue to grow? What the hell’s going on with Gale and Dewey, I have to know! (Man, I wonder what kinda fucked up haircut Gale is going to sport this time…) I just hope that a lesson has been learned from past mistakes and from the litany of films that tried to duplicate SCREAM’s initial success and failed. The blurb that seemed to attach itself like a barnacle to the poster art was “Clever, Hip and Scary!” Do me a favor CRAVEN and company, don’t worry so much about those first two adjectives and concentrate on that last one. If the best scene in your entire series ends up being forever the first one I’d call that a steady downhill slide.

NOTE: Stab me if you want to but yes, I do think TORI SPELLING played a superior Sidney Prescot! I’m not proud of that admission either!

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Tags: General Horror · Kinder-Spotlight · Trauma Au Courant

Insidious

April 2nd, 2011 · 11 Comments

One selling point that is unlikely to ignite my interest is the line,“From the makers of SAW and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.” I’m not what you would call a fan of either of those films. Be that as it may, I am now willing to let bygones be bygones and move forward. JAMES WAN you and I got off on the wrong foot but all is forgiven thanks to INSIDIOUS. Have you been reading my diary Mr. WAN because you have somehow delivered just the type of film I’ve been seriously yearning for lately, a straight-forward, old fashioned spook-a-thon that has faith in its audiences imagination. What a pleasure it is to be legitimately creeped-out for a change. The sound of a theater audience gasping in unison and then chuckling at themselves is music to my ears.

INSIDIOUS is wonderfully simple. What else do you need to know besides the fact that it centers on a family experiencing a haunting? The good news is that unlike many a supernatural film that has come down the pike as of late you get the sense that those behind the camera may actual believe what they are telling you and have a healthy respect for the otherworldly. There is darkness in this film and it feels like darkness should, expansive and limitless and deviously shrouding the unknown. The beauty part of INSIDIOUS for me is that it’s like listening to somebody tell a ghost story and then recognizing a moment where the storyteller has entered the zone where they are freaking themselves out as well, rare stuff indeed.

Made for relative pennies and parading effective performances rather than CGI, INSIDIOUS takes a giant step forward by looking toward the past. The excesses of WAN’S previous effort DEAD SILENCE are robustly buffered here and it’s as if the film could stand as a eureka moment marker for the director where he gleans the concept of “less is more.” Timing is everything and there are so many visual moments in INSIDIOUS that linger only long enough to mark the psyche and then scatter into oblivion and the effect leaves you straining your eyeballs in a futile attempt to capture and pinpoint the cause. In other words, it plays rather like a communal séance where you have a ring side seat to witness the supernatural. That’s what I (and apparently the audience I saw this with) call fun. To quote ANIMAL HOUSE, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

Both PATRICK WILSON and ROSE BYRNE are convincing as befuddled parents who resist the gravity of their situation for as long as possible only to discover their worst fears are just the tip of the iceberg. THE ENTITY’s BARBARA HERSHEY shows up to throw some un-played cards on the table and reveal that she doesn’t mind starring in TWO of the better films I’ve seen in the last year. DEAD END’s LIN SHAYE leaves the most indelible mark as a Tangina-schooled psychic in a gas mask. Can I just let it be known that as far as scream queens go y’all can have your pip squeaks and dopey debutantes and I’ll take the inimitable SHAYE? She’s wonderful in this and much like the late great ZELDA RUBINSTEIN in POLTERGEIST, her character is presented as whimsical comedy relief of sorts only to, with a glance or change of tone, suggest a razor sharp depth that unsettles and takes you completely off guard. Really it’s a classic performance.

So yeah, I highly recommend INSIDIOUS; it does something wonderful by allowing the mysterious and uncanny free space to roam and rather than tie everything up in a pretty bow, it stokes the imagination. The way it drop kicks the grotesque smack dab into the everyday at regular intervals is sort of like bumping into that homeless alley rat from MULHOLLAND DRIVE on every block you stumble down. This is a movie that I think truly earns its title and I’m going to award it a zillion extra points for recognizing the voluptuous horror of TINY TIM. Go see it in the theater rather than wait for home viewing and do yourself a giant favor by allowing the darkness extra room to play.

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Tags: Barbara Effin' Hershey · Trauma Au Courant · Tykes in Trouble

Drive Angry

March 3rd, 2011 · 17 Comments

I try to ignore box office reports. It’s not as if they are any indication of quality and I know full well that my tastes don’t match up with that of the general public’s anyway. I say that not out of reverse snobbery, but as someone who has watched many a great movie fizzle and starve at the box office only to become everybody’s BFF later. In any case, the fumes from DRIVE ANGRY’s theatrical crash and burn were hard for me to ignore. The movie, by the fine folks who delivered me my pet fave slasher remake MY BLOODY VALENTINE, came in a pathetically lousy ninth place in its opening weekend and somehow shamefully behind a week-old BIG MOMMA’S HOUSE sequel. Ouch!

Because the movie involved cars I thought I might ignore it completely, but it’s stunning failure ignited my vulture instincts. I knew I had to see DRIVE ANGRY partially to throw 12 dollars into the director and writer’s hat out of respect for making me so happy with VALENTINE and partially because I wanted to perch and stare at it like one of those creepy death predicting hospital cats. Unsurprisingly I totally ended up enjoying the semi-insane movie as director PATRICK LUSSIER and writer TODD FARMER really do have a quality collaborative relationship going on and again, this is coming from somebody who thinks cars have ruined the world and should be replaced by moving sidewalks and jet-packs as soon as possible.

Some may think that a major factor in the movie’s financial failure is the fact that audiences are frightened of being trapped in a theater with NICOLAS CAGE but have you seen BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL-NEW ORLEANS? It’s so damn good. I’m here to point the finger directly at the wishy-washy T.V. ad campaign that neglected to alert the proper audience to what was really going down in this flick. For some reason some goofy person decided to hide the fact that this movie involved a rampaging Satanic cult and that my friends is just dumb. Somebody should be fired immediately and his or her job should be handed to me. My Chauncey Gardiner insights could have saved millions of dollars. Nobody should ever be ashamed of rampaging Satanists and nobody should ever have to rely on my pity to get me to the theater!

Oh poor misunderstood DRIVE ANGRY, its schlocky charms and cheesy tomfoolery are easily misread as genuine hackneyed incompetence but it’s clearly winking and nudging the audience about the joys of exploitation at every turn. Folks who suffer from 3-D fatigue should recognize that director LUSSIER uses the effect to enhance the action rather than as an empty garnish. He knows what he’s doing and the end result expands the landscape rather than producing that dreaded cramped diorama effect. Writer FARMER has sculpted some wonderfully wacked-out characters too, characters that I’m sad the audience will unlikely have the chance to follow to further adventures. CAGE as Milton dips his rakish vengeance in paternal redemption; AMBER HEARD is a bucket of charm as the kick-ass waitress sick of waiting for life to start and WILLIAM FICHTNER nearly runs away with the entire film as “The Accountant,” a scene-swiping soldier from hell. There’s some TOM ATKINS too, maybe not enough to fill my gluttonous ATKINS diet, but every little bit helps.

I guess it’s too late to rally and stop this Titanic from sinking. Lead balloon or not I’m destined to prefer DRIVE ANGRY to the films whose trailers preceded it which will undoubtedly all be much bigger hit$ even though most of them looked like intolerably boring GYLLENHAAL-infused INCEPTION retreads. I feel that it is my duty to tell you though that if you enjoy super trashy action or seventies era road movies or anything that remotely resembles the great RACE WITH THE DEVIL, you’ll probably love this movie and if you want to see it properly with the ingrained 3-D effects intact then you have to do it quickly before it disappears. In the long run, box office success won’t mean much as I believe the cream will always rise to the top but I doubt there will be much cream in our future if we don’t support the filmmakers we enjoy now. The driving force of DRIVE ANGRY is its original offbeat Devil may-bite-me personality and it’s a real shame that that was exactly the selling point left by the side of the road in its advertising campaign’s attempt to appeal to a wider audience. Let this be a lesson to everyone; don’t hide your rampaging Satanic-cult light under a bushel!

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Tags: Trauma Au Courant

Isolation (2005)

March 1st, 2011 · 9 Comments

I’ve been digging for shells in the sands of Netflix Streaming for a while now and I must have passed this title by countless times. I would accuse myself of judging a book by its cover but how can I judge something when it doesn’t even register on my radar? The little poster avatar for ISOLATION may as well have been a generic can of corn in a supermarket aisle as far as I was concerned. Furthermore, the word “isolation” does not instill horror in my heart; it makes me think of a nice window seat and a telephone happily off the hook. Thank God for readers like Lee W., there I was about to call it a night recently when I got an email informing me that ISOLATION regardless of poor poster art, bland title or crazy cow-centric synopsis was something I might enjoy. So I stayed up and watched it and Lee W. was absolutely right.

Coincidentally, the next day I read THIS POST over at Fearnet by DREW DAYWALT lamenting the recent scourge of heart in the wrong zip code horror. It got me thinking; what was it about ISOLATION that set it apart from the “why bother?” horror movies skulking about sucking up space? Without revealing too many details, here are a few of the elements that made it work for me:

STORY/PLOT:

There’s nothing new under the sun going on here, but that doesn’t mean that a horror film can’t have its own unique voice. I may have seen some elements of ISOLATION before but I have not seen them handled quite the same way. There is a big difference between being influenced by something and direct thievery, but as a viewer it’s the end results I’m most interested in. I say feel free to “borrow” if you use the borrowed goods as a springboard to someplace new. If you’re borrowing simply because you have nothing to say then don’t say anything at all. Parts of ISOLATION feel lifted from ALIEN or THE THING but they are starting points rather than dead ends and really, can you think of two better films to tip your slimy hat to?

CHARACTERS:

Popular theory is that the more you like a character, the more you care about what happens to them but I’m not sure I need to like a character at all. What I do need is an understanding of their motivations and why they do the things they do. I don’t have to want to invite them out to lunch in order to feel something for them but if you want to really involve me in their experiences, they need to come across as more than just meat props. I may not “like” all the characters in ISOLATION (mostly I do, especially its two leads JOHN LYNCH and RUTH NEGGA) but they all made sense to me and I didn’t think that any of them existed as mere chess pieces or monster fodder.

LOCATION:

A desolate farm in Ireland may not seem like the go-to location for a horror movie but in ISOLATION, it is milked (no pun intended) for all that it is worth. If you want to send the viewer to the place your film inhabits take the time to show them around. Location may seem incidental but I defy anyone to come up with a classic successful horror film that does not fully take advantage of its whereabouts. Think of HALLOWEEN, by all rights suburbia should be the dullest locale on Earth but in JOHN CARPENTER’s hands, the streets of Haddonfield become a shadowy dungeon like labyrinth. ISOLATION makes a point of setting the stage first and the horror that follows is all the better for it.

DIRECTION:

Film is a medium that can be manipulated a zillion ways in order to elicit an emotional response. Why do so many filmmakers seem content simply turning the camera on and blankly recording the action? Editing, lighting and sound should all be equally considered. ISOLATION has several well-orchestrated scenes where the director makes clear choices in an effort to be effective. I’m not saying it always works but simply witnessing the intention sends me half way to where I need to go. In other words, there is significance to what you are shown in this movie and how you are shown it and I never felt that I was being subjected to random filler.

I’m not calling ISOLATION the second coming but it deserves some recognition for at least trying to be a good horror movie rather than simply a pandering waste of space vanity badge for its creator. Whether it works or not for you, ISOLATION at least respects you enough to attempt to deliver actual fear instead of trying to impress you with empty cred-casting and a bushel of D-cups. I found myself completely submerged in the action and wishing I felt that way more often with other horror films.

IN CLOSE:

So yes, allow me to offer you the same courtesy that Lee W. offered me by recommending ISOLATION as a highly worthwhile watch that will probably surprise you. I’ve made an effort not to give too much away or to praise it to a degree that it can’t live up to. If you end up enjoying it as much as myself and Lee W. did then for Pete’s sake tell as many people as you can about it. There’s a part of me that just gets mad that a movie like this can get lost in the shuffle while most horror sites are reporting the most minuscule tidbits of non information about already over hyped films on a daily basis. If you end up NOT digging ISOLATION that’s fine too, just promise me that when and if you do see something that impresses you that you make sure others know! I can’t stand that I almost missed this movie! Lee W., I owe ya’ one!

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Tags: Trauma Au Courant

Devil (2010)

January 17th, 2011 · 9 Comments

It takes a village. My friend Fetsko may have ruined the ending of DEVIL for me, but I had it on good authority (The Mickster) that it was worth a spin anyway. Fortuitously, my generous neighbors Raj and Amanda had rented the film from my buddy Carol and allowed me to kidnap the disc overnight. I think it’s ironically fitting that so many people had a hand in my finally getting to see this film on account of DEVIL gets some serious play out of urban suspicion and the fear of strangers. Oh, and it takes place in my hometown of Philadelphia too. Whoever’s idea it was to show “The City of Brotherly Shoves” upside down during the opening credits is a genius. It’s disorienting and sinisterly effective, not to mention splendidly thrifty.

Actually DEVIL is as economical as a coupon-clipping auntie. You got your limited setting, minimal special effects and nada on the marquee names (unless Claire’s Republican boyfriend from the last season of SIX FEET UNDER and that weird lady who got canned from the first season of FACTS OF LIFE are marquee names.) We often wax nostalgic here about television movies from the seventies and there’s a reason for that, with limited budgets, emphasis was placed on storytelling and characters. DEVIL behaves like a television movie and that’s a compliment. It’s not always entirely credible but I’ve got the back of any movie that moves at its own pace and doesn’t desperately resort to banging on a pot with a ladle to get my attention. Kudos to this humble dumpling for making back its production budget on its first weekend in theaters, but I’m glad I caught it at home, late at night, on the couch where it belongs.

Who’s afraid of M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN? I’d say, anyone who has witnessed the hilarity of THE HAPPENING. As you may know, DEVIL is the first part of a proposed trilogy from the guy. It’s based on a tale from his head, though it’s written by BRIAN NELSON (HARD CANDY) and directed by QUARANTINE’s JOHN ERICK DOWDLE. Don’t worry, it’s not as silly as NIGHT’s last couple tablecloth tricks but it does bare his fingerprints as it focuses on generic morality, beeline redemption and that stinky emotional residue that often results when one is a shitty driver. Claustrophobics should find it especially tense as the action involves a group of people trapped in a small space being mysteriously slaughtered one by one. As for me, I’m just happy it stars my favorite villain of all time. I mentioned DEVIL’s T.V. movie nature, it’s really just SATAN’S TRIANGLE on an elevator and that suits me just fine.

It’s important that I don’t pull a Fetsko and reveal too much more of the plot (Mickster’s right, the ending really is a hoot whether you anticipate it or not.) It’s enough to say that DEVIL has a lean, breath of fresh air approach when compared to much of its competition. It stirs a pot of paranoia and makes you question what you have witnessed rather than chucking rubber spiders at your head at regular intervals. I doubt it will make me cautious of elevator travel in the future but it does nice work exasperating the worry that everybody is not quite what they appear to be. There’s some good performances here too, so don’t be surprised if Claire’s boyfriend (CHRIS MESSINA) does become a marquee name in the future. (I’m also rewarding DEVIL with an extra gold star for employing shish kabob recipient MATT CRAVEN of HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME who was also in JACOB’S LADDER. I’m always glad to see that guy. ) Here’s hoping the future additions to this imagined trilogy are patient enough to reach the same floor.

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Tags: General Horror · Trauma Au Courant

Kinder-News:: Kindertrauma Nominated for “Best Fan Blog” By Total Film!

January 7th, 2011 · 6 Comments

UNK SEZ:: Hey look at this! KINDERTRAUMA has been nominated for “Best Fan Blog” by TOTAL FILM. Many other fine blogs were nominated as well, including some of our bestest pals. We hate to grade-grub but we’ll do it anyway, if you like what we do here give us a high five via a click vote! Thanks times a million for recognizing us TOTAL FILM and remember folks, vote for KINDERTRAUMA because we don’t even want to go to college! Check out the ballot HERE!

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Tags: Kinder-Topix · Plug It Up! · The Teaches of Peaches · Trauma Au Courant