Welcome to my annual Halloween Horr-tacular (not to be confused with the other similarly named extravaganza focusing on my street-walking ways). This is a month long event throughout all of October where I watch a horror movie a day and review it/make fun of it/weep silent tears of self-loathing as I watch Uwe Boll's House of the Dead for the fifth time in my life. I've done this before in 2014 and 2015 so view those if you're looking for an idea of what this is about. I'm posting this a week before everything starts in case someone wants to drop some movie suggestions for me. Here's how I'm going to be handling it this year:
What to Expect
Meh Mondays: You read that right, Mondays will be devoted to watching terrible movies from any decade or culture (because bad knows no boundaries).
Too Lazy Tuesdays: When I'm too lazy to search for movies on my own, I’ll be taking requests on Tuesdays for horror films. This is your opportunity to scare the pants back onto me (legal council advises me that scaring my pants off of me will likely result in civil action being taken against me since the ‘break-away pants haunted hayride incident’). I’ll watch anything you recommend (that I can find).
Wildcard Wednesdays: Dealer’s choice here. These movies will be random and whatever I feel like watching at that moment horror-related.
Throwback Thursdays: A day dedicated to watching vintage movies from the 60’s down. Let’s see if I can’t dig up a movie made by an old foaggie that might scare these whippersnappers.
Foreign Film Fridays: (#pretentious) Break out your wine glasses and MD 20/20 (the finest wine I’ve ever known), because Fridays will be dedicated to watching foreign films from all over the world.
Saturday Showdowns: Ever wanted to see similar movies go up against each other or wonder if the newer version trumps the remake? Welp, Saturday showdown will be for you as two films will go head-to-head and only one can walk away with the title of “slightly better than the other one”.
Creepypasta Sundays: Sundays will be devoted to movies inspired by creepypastas (campfire horror stories that have spread on the internet like urban legends). This may be a little more of a challenge, but I think I’ll be able to come up with some movies that were inspired by creepypastas. Additionally Self-Promotion Sunday will happen here and you’ll get to take a look at my sub-par writing as read by the internet’s finest.
I hope you join me for what has been heralded as a "massive waste of time", "a terrible idea", and "a perfect example of why this generation will doom the world". So let's get amped up for Halloween with some excellent movies (or excellently bad movies).
1/10/16 Saturdays Showdown: Nosferatu (1922) Vs. Dracula (1931)
Let’s start with some classics, vampire vs. vampire. Both movies are excellent, but let’s see which one has the leg up.
Nosferatu: First things first, the music really doesn’t mesh in a lot of places here (free). The bar scene where the protagonist reveals he’s heading to the dreaded castle (where apparently there’s a werewolf roaming the forest) feels almost whimsical. When the creature does appear, the music sounds like wacky hi-jinx are about to go down. It really didn’t work for me, which is a shame because there are a lot of creepy scenes. When Orlok sucks the blood off of Hutter’s cut finger and Orlok’s journey to the city in coffins packed with plague rats are excellent at upping the creepiness factor.
Dracula: (not free). This one is a talkie and does a better job of making the music more atmospheric. It is also a more faithful adaptation of “Dracula”. The problem is that Bela Lugosi (Dracula) unfortunately found himself locked into the role of creepy antagonist in films and paired with Boris Karloff. Due to Lugosi’s foreign accent (Hungarian) he was often left out of top billing (a privilege typically awarded to Karloff when they co-starred, even if Lugosi was leading actor.) and his popularity decreased. This makes it really hard to watch “Dracula” without imagining a bunch of movie executives hiring him for the role because the creepiest thing an actor can be in 1920’s-1950’s Hollywood is foreign.
Conclusion: Comically enough the earlier movie Nosferatu, was in fact an unlicensed copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (so much so that they couldn’t use the words: “Vampire” or “Count Dracula”) while “Dracula” was the film with rights. I generally found Nosferatu creepier (No offense to Bela Lugosi, but it is hard to take him seriously after hearing him as the narrator in Ed Wood’s masterpiece “Glen or Glenda” and knowing the backstory of his roles just makes Dracula seem like a sadder character in retrospect.) It is a bit of a toss up in the end because both films are excellent. I think that “Nosferatu” edges out Dracula in the end with the unsettling performance of Max Schreck as Count Orlok.
2/10/16 Creepypasta Sundays: Always Watching (2015)
A Marble Hornets Story is the sub-title but the issue is that this really doesn’t connect to Marble Hornets (the Youtube series) at all. There’s a missing person’s poster for one of the characters from the Marble Hornets series and it tries to make a connection at the end that the survivors have the original college tape, but it feels like it’s own story. The camera always seems to be on; whether it’s recording the reporter’s last Percocet for 2013 at a party, talking over drinks after a successful report, or Milo expressing concern about the new co-worker. Sometimes the cameraman, Milo, isn’t even there and the camera’s running on the ground with no one holding it.
You can only see Slenderman (never directly called that) through the camera. The big issue is that the cuts are so random. It’ll go from Milo looking over footage and spotting Slenderman to a scene of him looking at the creature in his own backyard with little build-up or tension. It feels like they really just wanted the name and didn’t want to add a backstory so we have “Marble Hornets”-lite, condensed from 5-6 hours with little reason to care about the characters and the series is necessary viewing as nothing is really explained in this movie. Trivia facts: The movie was postponed from a 2014 release after the Slenderman stabbings.
Self-promotion time! I have a few new stories posted onto EmpyrealInvective's Collection of Short Stories.
3/10/16 Meh Monday: Monster A-Go-Go (1965)
Sci-fi horror?! This has to be good! It’s not, apparently the only reason this movie was completed (funding ran out and production was ceased) was because Herschell Gordon Lewis (the Godfather of Gore) apparently needed a second film for a double feature so “Monster a Go-Go” was hastily completed and stapled it onto “Moonshine Mountain”. (Jokes on him unfortunately as Monster a Go-Go has been logged into the annals of bad films while “Moonshine Mountain” is a relatively unknown movie).
There’s a reason why this is considered a bad film and it was riffed apart by Mystery Science Theater 3000.. The film was incomplete and a majority of the scenes are told to the audience. The monster is captured and subsequently escapes the lab all off camera. The radioactive monster gets trapped in the sewers of Chicago and just vanishes, off camera. A monologue is delivered at the end “But is the menace with us? Or is the monster gone?” as if the film was going to get a sequel. Thankfully, it did not.
4/10/16 Too Lazy Tuesdays: ParaNorman (Request by my sister) (2012)
I enjoyed this one immensely when I watched it in Nicaragua. Despite it being geared towards kids, they have a number of classic horror references (B-movie opening, the Michael Myers-themed ring tone, Friday the 13th masks, etc.) The dialogue is quick (“What do you think you’re doing firing at civilians?! That’s for the police to do!”) and the effects/stop-motion look great (especially when the witch is influencing reality).
The movie also really does an interesting job of addressing bullying, identity, and even persecution. It gets a little heavy-handed at times, but it is a kid’s movie. I think it also has the first openly gay character (Mitch) in a children’s movie and I liked the fact that he’s portrayed without any of the gay stereotypes present in other movies (effeminate, fashion oriented, catty, etc.). I’d definitely recommend this movie to parents with kids for are old enough for horror (7+) and I think the adults will enjoy some of the humor sprinkled in there too.
5/10/16 Wildcard Wednesday: Under the Skin (2013)
I got a feeling this is going to be a love-it-or-hate-it type of movie. A bare bones synopsis is that a black-skinned entity disguised as a woman (Scarlet Johansson) lures multiple people to an isolated location where they’re swallowed up in a black void. The story is told mainly through observing actions and reactions. There are a lot of artfully done shots that make this feel like an art house horror film. Personally, I liked this one a lot.
The music has to be the best part of it for me. What starts off as an otherworldly track slowly builds throughout the movie adding in segments and undertones. The score manages to be unnerving, grating, and complex throughout as it builds to this crescendo. It’s perfect for making your skin crawl. Give it a listen. The only real gripe I have is that the movie can feel a bit repetitive. A majority of it is just the Woman seducing and luring people back to her lair while revealing a bit more each time. That being said, the music, aesthetic feel, and subtext (that may warrant another viewing) are enough to make me recommend this movie.
6/10/16 Throwback Thursday: The Mummy (1932)
As I couldn’t find the 1911 version, I had to settle for the next best thing: Boris Karloff as the Mummy, Imhotep. After his success as Frankenstein’s Monster, he was headlined for this movie. He plays the main antagonist (the eponymous Mummy) and does a good job at being creepy.
This is one of the Universal Monster classics. It is held a bit back with awkward lines, the protagonist (David Manners) describes opening the tomb to Zita Johann and falling in love with the mummified princess to which she responds: “Do you have to open graves to find girls to fall in love with?” Sick 1930’s burn! If they kept up dialogue like that, David Manners would have been the one looking like the Mummy (on account of all the bandages for his burns.)
7/10/16 Foreign Film Friday: “Suspiria” (1979)
Let’s take a trip to Italy as my parents are currently vacationing there for the classic “Suspiria”. Dario Argento directs this movie involving a ballet dancer attending a school which may be home to a witch preying on innocent girls. I will say this, while I do have some qualms about the movie (the dialogue mainly as it seems naive at times), you can’t really fault the soundtrack. The band Goblin (because of course they’re named Goblin) does an excellent job of making the movie feel unsettling. Couple that with the cinematography and you have an atmospheric piece.
Fun facts (that also make me look bad): Dario Argento originally intended for the characters to be attending a ballet school geared towards 12 year olds. Of course the numerous scenes of violence involving children would have likely resulted in an NC-17 rating so older actors were used but a majority of the dialogue was left as it was.
8/10/16 Saturday Showdown: The Last Man on Earth (1964) vs. The Omega Man (1971)
Price vs. Heston! Vampires vs. Mutants! Old vs. slightly newer.
The Last Man on Earth feels a lot closer to the Richard Matheson story “I Am Legend”. In fact, Matheson assisted in writing the screenplay but when he realized it wasn’t quite what he was expecting, he insisted his name be credited as Logan Swanson. The narrator doing a voiceover throughout the story gives the movie a more lonely feel to it. Additionally scenes like him blasting music while smiling as they attack his house do a lot better to foreshadow the ending of the movie as well as portraying the protagonist as an unhinged man.
The Omega Man The Jesus analogy is a bit grating at times with Robert Neville actually dying in a Jesus Christ pose. Heston is clearly meant to be seen as a great guy which seems contrary to the source material. Fun facts: Apparently the interracial kiss between Heston and Rosalind Cash ruffled some feathers (earliest one I can remember is Stanley Kubrick’s “Killer’s Kiss” in 1955) and when it was brought up with Charlton Heston at an interview with Whoopi Goldberg in 1992 whether it made him uncomfortable or not he demonstrated that it didn’t by kissing her.
In the end, I have to go with “The Last Man on Earth”. This was really neck and neck until the last fifteen minutes of each. I’m a fan of Matheson’s book and this seems like a closer adaptation. Ironically enough, Matheson felt Vincent Price was miscast as the protagonist and that was a major fault he had with the production. It has that classic Vincent Price melodrama to it, but I think this is a scenario where that benefits the story given its focus on depression, loneliness, and a man’s descent into madness. The voice acting could also use quite a bit of work. It’s clear to see how this film was cited as a source of inspiration for George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” and that’s a high accolade in-an-of-itself.
9/10/16 Creepypasta Sunday: Weirdo (2014) The Goatman
The Asansi GoatMan tells the urban legend of the Skinwalker, a shapeshifter that can take anyone’s appearance and (in this story at least) smells like a ‘nasty, coppery smell like right after you've had a nosebleed and it's stopped’. The creepypasta focuses on a group of kids dealing with their encounter during a camping trip. The movie “Weirdo” seems to be a pretty faithful adaptation to the story plot-wise.
“Weirdo” is a 2014 short film by “An Endless Stairs” production that was written and directed by Herbert Moran. The first thing is that the dialogue can be awkward at times. As this is a low budget film, I’m not going to harp on this too much as they do their best to make due with their (probable( lack of funding. The movie follows the story relatively point-for-point although there is one point that bothers me. The kids seem very wholesome and no one swears once despite everything that’s happening. Conversely in the story you really get a feel for their panic as the cursing can only be described as rampant. It takes about thirty minutes to read the story or to watch the movie and I think this makes a decent companion piece.
Self-Promotion Time: I got another story in the writer's workshop that I'm trying to rescue from the Hall of Shame. Any feedback would be helpful.
10/10/16 Meh Monday: Blood Freak (1972)
Hey, want to see a film which was rated X/NC-17 that is both anti-drug propaganda and a didactic religious tale that is also an exploitation film? You do? Why? Seriously, that just sounds terrible. Both you and I should probably re-evaluate our lives at some point. Anyway, here’s “Blood Freak”.
Let’s follow the train of logic (choo choo!). Hershel (Steve Hawkes… Foreshadowing?) gives a girl a ride home (who cautions him against smoking pot), he later smokes pot and becomes hopelessly addicted, after testing a new drug made to improve the quality of turkey meat, he turns into a monster with a turkey head over his human one, who can only satiate his addiction with the blood of other addicts. Later, he wakes up after killing three people and realizes that it was one of those well-known 'pot-induced hallucinations' and repents and finds salvation in the Lord.
So what we’ve got here is a bloody exploitation film with blood that looks like pink clay, which is also an anti-drug PSA with hilarious misconceptions about marijuana, with the overtones of a religious redemption film. I have no idea who the target audience is and I can only assume it was rated NC-17 to save us from this disaster of a movie. The dialogue is terrible, if you listen closely, you can hear the director in the background, they loop character’s screaming, and it seems like no one knows what they’re doing during the film.
11/10/16 Too Lazy Tuesdays: Wolfcop (2014)
Let’s follow ChristianWallis’ advice and watch a horror/comedy. I went into WolfCop with low expectations given that I had watched “A Haunted House” (which retroactively destroyed my hopes for not only all comedy/parody movies, but all movies in general) and I actually enjoyed it. “WolfCop” is a gory, splatstick type of movie that doesn’t take itself seriously. It can easily be summed up with this: “Lou Garou is a cop, an alcoholic, who is also a werewolf and that’s all you need to know.”
The transformation scenes are graphic, although the werewolf costume could use a bit of work. The comedy is a little on the weaker side (the werewolf love/post-coital scene spring to mind), but there are still a few good one liners and the puns make it a selling point for me. There are a few nice subtle references here and there. The protagonist’s name Lou Garou is similar to the French word for werewolf (loup garou), one of the auto shops has the name Stiles which is a character from Teen Wolf, and so many werewolf puns, as well as a few others I may have to re-watch. I’d definitely recommend this one for any fans of gore, the comedy may miss a few marks, but it’s hard to stay mad at a film where a werewolf takes out a meth lab, eats liquor donuts, and has a WolfCop rap at the end of the movie.
12/10/16 Wildcard Wednesday: The Witch (2015)
Welp, this has come as quite the surprise. I originally thought that “Under the Skin” was going to be my favorite movie on this list and now I see it has some competition. “The Witch” is a great horror period piece that follows settlers cast out of their community who are slowly preyed upon by a coven of witches. As the family faces starvation and their faith is tested, they begin to fall apart at the seams.
The dialogue is excellent. It’s clear that they really dug into old texts and letters to give it an authentic feel. The drab atmosphere and music score allows the story to build to a crescendo. Given that this is Robert Eggers’ directorial debut, I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. Given that he’s set to direct the remake of Nosferatu, it’ll definitely be something that I’ll have to keep my eye on.
13/10/16 Throwback Thursday: The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
“The Creature from the Black Lagoon” holds up quite a bit better than “The Mummy”. It feels a lot more tense as the Creature is doing its best to keep them trapped in the Black Lagoon, couple that with the fact that the characters are clashing (A majority want to escape while one wants to capture/kill the monster) and you have a more involving experience than the Mummy. You can see how a film like this could inspire so many monster movies like: Jaws, The Blob, and of course, the cultural movie zeitgeist that is Zaat.
Fun fact: The costume for the Creature was pitched into a dumpster behind Universal Studios once filming was complete. A janitor rescued the costume from the trash because he thought it would make a good costume for his son (you see Cari, it totally puts my trashcan costume into context) and it was later sold at an auction for a princely sum.
14/10/16 Foreign Film Friday: Xtro (1982)
From the British isle of Britain (I count that as foreign), comes the movie Xtro, so let me take the lift down to the street where I can pick up a lorry and go to the shoppe to pick up some crisps for this review. Xtro focuses on a man returning to his family years after an alien abduction and his sinister plans to convert his son and infect other people.
I mainly watched this movie as I kept seeing clips of the movie surfacing as video evidence for true encounters with the paranormal (particularly the skinwalker). The practical effects for this film look really good and can be a bit disturbing at times (especially the embryo implantation scenes). As it’s an 80’s horror film, it can get a bit schlocky at times and the musical accompaniment sounds like someone is murdering a synthesizer, but overall I would recommend the film if you’re interested in seeing where those clips are coming from that claim it’s a true encounter with a skinwalker or if you’re looking for a schlocky 80’s movie.
15/10/16 Saturday Showdown: Lovecraft vs. Poe! The Haunted Palace (1963) Vs. The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Price vs. Price. Roger Corman vs. Roger Corman. Similar years, Poe vs. Lovecraft! “The Masque of the Red Death” vs. “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”. Two great authors, two great stories. Will it be two great movies? Let’s find out.
Despite being named after a Poe poem, The Haunted Palace actually derives its plot from “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” in which a man inherits a house from his great-great grandfather and so begins a battle of the minds after the deceased spirit tries to possess his kin’s body. The Poe references do feel a bit shoe-horned in. For a movie deriving its plot from Lovecraft, they do like to work in a lot of Edgar Allen Poe references. Fun fact: This is the first movie (that I’m aware of) that directly references Lovecraft’s Necronomicon.
The Masque of the Red Death follows the Satanist (in the film) Prince Prospero and his torture of a family while cloistered away in his castle, safe from the Red Death (Likely Tuberculosis) where he entertains them with brutalities, mockeries, and dwarfs (Dubbing the voice of what is obviously a child actor with an adult woman's voice was a bit jarring though.). Vincent Price plays the villain (big shocker there) and the movie actually becomes pretty tense when you realize what’s coming and the Prince’s madness.
The winner goes to “The Masque of the Red Death”. While I am a fan of Lovecraft more than Poe, Corman’s rendition of “The Masque of the Red Death” (and “Hop-Frog”) is pitch perfect here. It adds to the story and makes it a much more tense experience. I wasn’t quite able to get immersed in “The Haunted Palace” as there wasn’t a lot of characterization there, but “The Masque of the Red Death” does a good job of establishing its characters and the climax involving the Red Death’s face reveal and Prospero’s desperation feel really well shot. You can view both movies for yourself and decide (unfortunately the first one is a bit cut off, but you can find the rest easily enough if you look) for yourselves which one you enjoyed more.
16/10/16 Creepypasta Sunday: The Forest (2016)
I know this is a bit of a stretch, but since there’s a creepy pasta focusing on Aokigahara and this film also covers the same subject I think I’ll have to make that jump (especially since all the Ben Drowned short films I looked up are either really bad or unfinished). Aokigahara is a forest near Mount Fuji that is a well-known place for people to commit suicide. It is so common that there are signs cautioning hikers and asking people to re-consider killing themselves. And after seeing this film, I think I may have been better reviewing the unfinished and poorly acted art student movies.
In the film, a woman looks for her missing twin in the titular forest and encounters spooky things. To be honest, Natalie Dormer does her best with the film, but they telegraph things way too early and the frequent (dream) jumpscares and lack of atmosphere really weaken the plot. There’s one scene where the protagonist remembers her parents’ death in a car accident and the car accident sound effects sound extremely familiar to a gunshot. They could have really built up the mystery/tension between the Sara (the protagonist) and the reporter, but it pops up and isn’t really capitalized on. The movie just falls flat when it really could have built up the atmosphere.
Anyone who is interested in a similar story about Aokigahara that is more atmospheric, I would strongly recommend El Torres’ (Juan Antonio Torres) comic The Suicide Forest (El Bosque de los Suicidos). This comic seems to do a much better job of building the story and making it atmospheric. The only drawback is that at a little over 100 pages, it feels like more can be done here. I’d really recommend giving it a read and maybe a buy if you enjoy the series enough.
Self-promotion time! The story A Stranger in the House is now up. Please give it a read and a review if you have the time.
17/10/16 Meh Monday: Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows (2000)
Let’s be topical! The Blair Witch is getting a possible sequel or soft remake. The original was quite polarizing when I reviewed it last so let’s go on to one that is less polarizing. This film is considered terrible. It was so bad that Joe Berlinger (the director) apologized for the movie and tried to explain what went wrong in his novel “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” (if you guessed its rushed nature, studio involvement re-cutting the film, and hasty attempt to cash in on the success of the first movie, you are right.)
There is so much wrong with this film. They shift from a more atmospheric method of horror to jump scares and nonsensical plot points (“If we play the film footage in reverse, we can see what really happened the night that other Blair Witch tour group was murdered, which we were in no way involved in despite having mysteriously blacked out… Surely.”), and they break from the found footage angle to a more cinematic experience. Really I can only hope that the “Blair Witch” (2016) learns from the mistakes of its predecessor.
18/10/16 Too Lazy Tuesdays: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)
My Aunt Cathy recommended this one and I can see why. It is a tense movie that leaves you wanting to re-watch it to try and pick out the protagonist’s intentions. “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane” tells the tale of a thirteen year old girl living on her own after her father’s disappearance and her dealing with an acidic landlord and her sexually-aggressive son. There are some genuinely uncomfortable scenes where he spanks her as a form of American ‘tradition’ (one for each year), strangles her pet in front of her, and generally threatens her. Fortunately there’s nothing in current politics to use a scene involving unwarranted physical contact as a discussion on rights and responsibilities.
My only qualm is that, while this is a tense movie, I don’t know if I can see it as a horror movie. This feels more like a thriller as you’re left wondering how complicit this girl is and how far she is willing to go to hide her situation. The uncut shot of Jodie Foster’s character at the end as the antagonist is poisoned feels relatively unnerving. That being said this makes the movie winning the Saturn Award film for best horror movie of the year seem off, especially considering that films released that year are “Carrie”, “The Omen”, “The Town That Dreaded Sundown”, and the ‘gems’ that are “Dogs” and “Savage Weekend”.
19/10/16 Wildcard Wednesday: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)
Since I mentioned it earlier and because I don’t really have any killer films on the list, I thought I’d correct that with “The Town That Dreaded Sundown”. I haven’t seen this movie yet so I’ll be interested to see what warranted a sequel forty years later in 2014. The movie focuses on a string of killings that happened after World War II and is very, very loosely based on the Texarkana Moonlight Murders and the police’s attempt to catch him while dealing with hysterical citizens.
First things I notice that they hired Samuel L. Bronkowitz’s hype man from “The Kentucky Fried Movie” for the opening of the movie as they sound eerily similar. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure if this is a comedy or not with the bumbling police who have to cross-dress in a sting operation, to the slapstick car chases, to the Moonlight Murderer who murders one girl with a knife taped to a trumpet that he plays into her. While some scenes can set up a creepy factor, the trumpet murder scene (minute 50-52) really take the wind out of the movie’s sails. All in all, the movie seems to reflect a lot of “The Hook” urban legend so I can see why it’s stuck in people’s memories forty years later.
20/10/16 Throwback Thursday: The Invisible Man (1933)
To be honest, this one was a bit flat. With the other Universal Monster series, you get an idea for why the film has stuck in cinema history. This one seems to be more of a focus on the special effects rather than the story itself. That being said, the effects look nice for being entirely practical. The plot is where the issues begin to bleed through. The Invisible Man threatens someone into working for him, but the issue is that he’s still just a man and wearing clothes when he isn’t doing capers. What is to stop Dr. Kemp from beating him down or restraining him in some way when he knows where he’ll be?
Did you know that “The Invisible Man” actor Claude Rains was subjected to hours of people applying invisible ink to him to achieve the effects of looking invisible? Jokes aside, the effects were usually the work of wires and using the actor in black velvet against a black backdrop. I wonder with films today if a focus on special effects would overcome a relatively bland story. I guess we’ll never know, it’s not like Universal Studios is planning on remaking all of these classics anytime soon…Oh…
21/10/16 Foreign Film Friday: Ojos de Julia/Julia’s Eyes (2010)
Porque tuve difficultades encontrando una pelicula de terror de Nicaraguense, yo decidi a mirar a una pelicula de Espana. Let’s pop on over to Spain/Barcelona for this Guillermo del Toro produced film directed by Guillem Morales, Los Ojos de Julia/Julia’s Eyes. The movie follows a woman (Julia) with a degenerative eye disease as she investigates her sister’s apparent suicide/murder. As her eyesight begins to degenerate, she becomes convinced that she is being stalked by the same man who murdered her sister. With the noose tightening around her neck, they become embroiled in a game of cat-and-mouse.
I know I’m a bit biased here given my immense enjoyment of films Guillermo del Toro has produced, but this was a really tense, enjoyable movie. The camera frequently cuts to POV shots so you can see how restricted the protagonist’s vision is. They develop the characters nicely and the ending pulls on your heartstrings. One of the more tense scenes involves her (having regained some of her vision) trying to convince the killer that she is blind while she wanders around the charnel house and sees the bodies of his victims and the depths of his obsession with her and her sister (hundreds of photos of them plastered on a wall depicting them sleeping, eating, bathing, etc.). While I enjoyed this movie, “The Orphanage” still is on the top of my list. I would recommend this one to anyone looking for a tense movie and is alright with reading subtitles.
22/10/16 Saturday Showdown: Zombi (1979) vs. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Zombie showdown time! Lucio Fulci vs. George Romero. Slow zombie vs. equally slow zombie.
George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the progenitor of the zombie-horror genre. What more can really be said that I didn’t say the last time I watched and reviewed it? The story focuses on survivors of a zombie outbreak trying to survive in a house. The film feels isolated as these people are isolated and trapped in this place. The scene where the zombies begin breaking into the house and tearing down the barricade actually comes off as really hopeless.
Lucio Fulci’s Zombi (video freezes at 42 minute mark) is a lot more graphic. I’m fairly surprised some of the gorier scenes didn’t land this film an NC-17 rating. While the story isn’t as compelling as the other movie, the soundtrack is super funky. Seriously, click that link (and after the graphic headshot opening) give it a listen to. This is a fun movie, where else can you see a zombie fighting a shark and hilariously awkward dubbing. My big issue is that it doesn’t really feel as wide a scope as Romero’s movie. You only see a few zombies so they don’t feel like an ever-present danger.
Night of the Living Dead is great in so many aspects. One thing Zombi does better (in my pompous opinion) is in the soundtrack and in the visuals. Zombi can easily churn your stomach (splinter in the eye scene for example) whereas Night of the Living Dead works better at building up tension and having that underlying social commentary. In the end, I have to give it to Night of the Living Dead. I do prefer substance over style and it’s easy to see why Romero made a franchise out of this… a franchise whose latter films can’t seem to catch the magic of “Night of the Living Dead” and “Dawn of the Dead”.
23/10/16 Creepypasta Sunday: Short film Bonanza!
There’s fourteen of these, so I’m going to rank them in order of least favorite to favorite and do a blurb on each. The link to the list of these movies is right here and the others can be found on Youtube. The first link is to the story and the link at the end will be to the film.
14 Jeff the Killer: Origins: Everyone knows that the OC teenage power fantasy that is Jeff the Killer was turned down by a girl and eventually set on fire because of it (#firstcrushproblems). The girl he had a crush on then helps him murder because, reasons. This film is in no way an awkward self-insertion (or Jane fanfic) made into a movie. Welp with that easy target out of the way, let’s move on to hopefully better films.
13 Sonic.EXE: Fuuuuuuuu- It turns out you can’t make a concept scary with spooky music and visuals. It was well-acted and all, but adding the music stinger to the reveal of Sonic’s blood-red eyes actually made me chuckle. It just felt ridiculous. Watching Sonic.EXE exert its control over the protagonist is just magical given the context. Watch it here.
12 Smile Dog: The same producer of the Sonic.EXE short film takes a stab at it here… It doesn’t go well. This needs to be more than four minutes long as there’s no build-up or atmosphere here. It’s just a guy getting the image and then having a dream about the .jpg before transforming into Smile Dog himself. Jayk Pound Productions is not batting a good average here.
11 The Girl in the Photograph: This one feels like it had the biggest waste of potential. There’s no dialogue, but the black-and-white setting with the girl in the photograph being in color was neat, but they drop it midway through and without any dialogue you really don’t get the feel of the protagonist’s goals. See it here.
10 Ben Drowned: Jayk Pound is back. While this is a bit of a step up, a majority of his films seem to be just him and truncated versions of the original story. This uses the original clips, but at fifteen minutes this feels really rushed. Give it a watch.
9 Trust: While this feels close the original story, I don’t know if this is the best story to adapt. It’s ten minutes long and while it tries to build the characters, it just doesn’t feel like it’s a needed adaptation.
8 The Rake: This one feels like it’s going to be the weakest in the series. It starts off like one of the narratives in the story (2006), but shifts away with the Rake killing the husband and wife. The Rake really doesn’t look much like the images either and seems more like a buff-boy. Give it a look.
7 The Expressionless: They really try to make this one effective with the gore and jumpscares, but it’s kind of hard to take it serious with the “I am God.” line as it feels like a spoopy line in the story and including it really doesn’t help much here.
6 Slenderman: This is more of an insertion of the property into another story which is all right, but sometimes it feels out-of-place. Slender man fighting a man and breaking his wrist gives the impression that they aren’t quite following the IP. See it here.
5 Ability: It follows the dialogue closely, but having the narrator speak over the homeless man with his narration felt a bit unnecessary. Couple that with the shift to an English/American country and the talk about someone being an onion in their past life feels out of place (as reincarnation into/from objects isn’t too focused on). Check it on vimeo.
4 Stitches Based on the urban legend of the clown/angel statue, this short film falls a bit short. It really tries to build up the atmosphere and add jumpscares to keep it going, but the issue is that the film is like 5 minutes long and that time could have been spent building up the clown figure rather than throwing him in during the last thirty seconds.
3 The Midnight Man Ritual: Found footage, dark environment, jumpscare at the end. The big issue is that it doesn’t really go through many of the steps so it could be substituted with One-Man-Tag and wouldn’t feel any different. Judge it for yourselves.
2 White With Red: This feels like watching a movie short from a director with a budget. It’s pretty close to the original story although the original keyhole scene could use some work and the inclusion of the pointing ghost bride kind of weakened the impact at the end. Here's a link.
1 The Smiling Man: A nice little adaptation that captures the guy’s movements and unsettling behavior. I also like that the smile isn’t monstrous, it skips a supernatural angle in favor of an unhinged approach which makes the story more effective. It changes up the ending, but without the narrator’s voice, I feel like it was a needed addition to it.
Self-promotion Sunday: My most recent story, Tryps is live and I would love to get some reviews and needed edits.
24/10/16 Meh Monday: Zaat / Blood Waters of Dr. Z (1971)
The movie Zaat focuses on a scientist who transforms himself into a sea monster and terrorizes the countryside with walking catfish. Really, there are so many possible titles for this movie after watching it: “Walking: The Movie”, “Voiceover: The Movie”, “Easy Fodder for Jokes”. The monster walks slowly everywhere and visibility for the costume must be terrible as he bumps and trips over multiple things (all of which are included in the film). A majority of the film’s first thirty minutes is delivered in a flat voiceover.
This film is hilariously bad. It makes great material for riffing. In fact, a number of shows (MST3K, RedLetterMedia, and I Hate Everything) have watched this movie and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. This is a movie I can only classify as terribad. The titular monster dives into the ocean and randomly ejects a liquid and the scene cuts away. What did that liquid do? That’s for you to decide. Zaat breaks into a pharmacy and takes a bunch of drugs. Why? The reason given is “For the same reason he became a vampire last night.” Zaat is a glorious train-wreck of a movie.
25/10/16 Too Lazy Tuesdays: Jay Witchin’ and Bitchin’ (2013)
Witchin’ and Bitchin’ is a comedy/horror from Spain that features a silver-painted Jesus, a Mickey Mouse, a Spongebob, and a child robbing a cash for gold place. They attempt to flee the scene, but are captured by a coven of witches. Think of the opening of Snatch with the robbers posing as Hassidic Rabbis to rob a back and double down on that with a Spongebob street performer firing an uzi at cops and a Mickey Mouse fleeing police. It’s a strong dark/funny opening that really sets up the rest of the movie.
I think one of my favorite reoccurring jokes is that the ordinary people that are being in extremely dangerous situations and are constantly talking about their personal dramas (failing relationships, marital problems, child-raising, etc). It really brings some levity to the witch-pocalypse, although sometimes it feels a bit like machismo (one character comes to the realization that his life problems can be solved by becoming dominant in a relationship and another diffuses an explosive situation with a witch by kissing her). That being said, the dialogue can be rapid-fire, but there are a number of funny lines mixed in. If you’re alright with subtitles and a relatively non-sensical ending, I think you might enjoy this one as a bloody comedy/horror hybrid.
26/10/16 Wildcard Wednesday: Leprechaun Origins (2014)
This one was recommended by Dupin to likely destroy any friendship we may have had. The story focuses on a group of college kids traveling through Ireland and being trapped in a cabin by locals looking to sacrifice them to the murderous leprechaun. To be honest, it’s a really generic story and the director seemed more focused on a monster movie to realize that part of the charm of this series is the quirky leprechaun dropping one-liners, murdering people with pogo sticks, and generally being cheesy (They put him in the hood and space on two separate occasions).
Unfortunately they didn’t get Warick Davis to return to the film and instead replaced him with Hornswoggle from the WWE. They really don’t even show him fully as if they’re ashamed of how bad the costume looks. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the issues in the story (as the people who filmed it likely didn’t either), but I will say that the concept has been overused (vacationing kids encounter monster) and they don’t really have any interesting aspects in it. The movie is so boring that I can’t even find anything to make fun of. Feel free to watch Leprechaun Origins (side note: they don’t even really explain its origins) if you’re looking to be disappointed. I went in with very low expectations and I was still disappointed. The only thing the film manages to succeed in is disappointing its audience.
27/10/16 Throwback Thursday: L’Inferno (1911)
I decided against doing another Universal Monster movie in favor of something a little more vintage (older means better, right?) One of the oldest films on the list, “L’Inferno” is a cinematic re-telling of Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy”, in which the poet visits and chronicles the layout of Hell. This film is a fairly accurate rendition of Dante’s Inferno if I remember correctly. This is also one of the first films to show male nudity (something that wouldn’t be portrayed in mainstream films for another fifty years because penises are just so spooky.).
The film has a bit of a rough start with the role of a she-wolf being played by a pet dog ‘chasing’ Dante. Additionally Cerberos (the three-headed dog) really does not look good. The music (which was added in later) also doesn’t really do a good job of conveying a hellish landscape as it’s mainly jaunt-sounding violins. If you can get past that, when they eventually reach the bottom of Hell (a frozen lake where the devil is imprisoned and chewing on the traitors Brutus, Cassius, and Judas), the shot does actually look really unnerving with the bodies writhing in his mouth and he chomps on them. Unfortunately, I think I can only recommend this film to people who are interested in “The Divine Comedy: Dante’s Inferno”, but don’t quite feel like reading the book. The music (by no fault of the film, just the youtube version) feels off, the design for most of the monsters/demons also hasn’t aged well, and the text cards really just tell the story instead of introducing the scenes. All in all, I won’t say I regretted it, but I was expecting a bit more out of this one.