12.20.2009

While I'm Away...



Soooo, I've been absent from the Blogosphere for a while and I will most likely continue to be until January. I'm visiting family in the Pacific Northwest, which I am thoroughly enjoying. However, the internet connection is not great and it's kind of strange to steal someone else's computer to complete a blog entry. Plus, I'm already borrowing computers to complete applications for grad school/law school.

I hope everyone is having a great time gearing up for the holidays. Please share how you plan to celebrate below, especially if those plans involve watching a Christmas-themed horror film. I plan on revisiting the original Black Christmas. I've only seen it once or twice and it's been a few years. I'll be sure to report on that.

In the meantime, here is an old review of Christmas Evil that I dug up. Want to know what I thought of it? Here's a hint. Lessons learned from watching this move: 1) Marketing is Evil and 2) Poorly-acted character studies can never replace a slasher. Merry Christmas!

12.14.2009

Evil Things (2009): Home Invasion Meets Found Footage



A creepy, well-executed story that leaves me with some questions.

I’m a fan of found footage films. I’m willing to concede to stretched rationale to continue filming and shaky footage has never bothered me—blame this on my fellow MTV-generation filmmakers or something. That said, I’m all for the style and greatly understand the appeal of the raw footage aesthetic. For the independent filmmaker, the growing popularity of found footage is good news. It offers a budget-friendly platform, where the focus lies heavily on performances and basic storytelling. Strong actors and a compelling story are essential. Otherwise, all you have is a You Tube video.


Evil Things has those two important ingredients. When a group of college-age friends decide to spend the weekend at on isolated mountain house for a birthday, their goodtime is quickly transformed into a nightmare. All of the young actors are natural, funny, and refreshingly “normal” looking. Oh my goodness, there’s even someone with braces and she’s not portrayed as the Milhouse of the neighborhood. The actors appear more comfortable with another as the film continues, so I suspect that the movie may have been shot in rough chronological order. There are only a few clumsy moments of performance early on. Regardless, these feel like real people and I genuinely cared for them, as the events began to escalate. I was surprised by the great deal of tension that amounted from subtle occurrences—occurrences which turn from odd to coincidental to disturbing. The final push into the climax is one my favorites scenes in recent memory. However, the rising action is so effective, that I feel the final act was underwhelming. In Blair Witch tradition, we aren’t privileged with as much information and as many sights as we hope for.


My biggest (and for the most part, only) issue with Evil Things is the amount of unanswered questions as a result of the sparse conclusion. It is not only the who and the why that are left hanging on the tongue, but there is no visual reveal of the perpetrator. Nor is there a reveal of the manner of dispatching the young adults and what he/she does with the victims. For some people, ambiguity is more frightening, but I prefer some form of a revelation.

I am also curious about the choice of aesthetic. Aside from budgetary concerns, I want to know why director Dominic Perez chose found footage. I can’t help but wonder if a traditional style of filmmaking might have been more effective for this chilling story. Home invasions films get to me more easily than others, but I felt Evil Things fell a tad short of pushing the scares over the top and I think the found footage aspect of it may have hindered the climactic departing moments. In the end, though, if found footage is what allowed this movie to become a practical reality, then the more power to Perez for seizing the opportunity.


I’m hoping the best for Evil Things. It’s a worthy film searching for distribution and some good buzz. It deserves a release, so I’m doing my part to spread the news. Many thanks to Dominic Perez himself for sending the screeners in an amusing package. Go to I Like Horror Movies and check out Carl’s review for a detailed description. I’d also like to give Johnny from Freddy in Space a shout out for hooking me (and many others) up with a screener though Perez. I’m glad he did, because it was a lot of fun!

12.10.2009

Michael Myers’ Letter to Santa Clause



Dear Santa,

Last year, I did not receive any presents. That lump of coal is still sitting beneath the floor boards of my parent’s old house. It’s a sad reminder of what my life has become. Look, I know I wasn’t a perfect angel this year either. In fact, my outing in Halloween 2 was much worse than in Rob Zombie’s first effort. You have to believe me though Santa, I really did try to bring fans what they wanted this year. I bulked up, grew out my beard, acquired a homeless man’s wardrobe, and successfully learned to grunt. I did my best, but I'm not sure everyone else involved did. So can you really blame me? How about giving me the presents intended for Rob and Scout.

Due to the nature of my job, I hardly ever get Christmas presents. Sure, there have been a few sabbaticals here and there, which allowed me to stock up on holiday joy. I really need a break this time Mr. Clause, because next year is going to be rough. 3D most certainly means no presents for Mikey. My iconography is entering a new stage—one that is depressing and degrading. I can think of only one thing that will make this transformation sting a little less…okay maybe two things: If John Carpenter were to direct me once again and if I were to get a few presents under the tree.

If you get this letter, I hope you are enjoying the weather in the North Pole. It’s a bit nippy here in Illinois, so I’d like a new coat, preferably one that doesn’t reek of cheap vodka and aging vomit. I’d also appreciate some scissors, or if you are really touched by this letter, an electric razor. Maybe the ones that give you a real close shave. That would be really nice of you. Well, I have to get going. The cops are kicking us out of the abandoned barn again.

From One Holiday Icon to Another,
Michael Myers

Trick ‘r Treat (2008): A Holiday Tale for All



Although the anthology may be difficult to get accustomed to, the film is destined to become a Halloween classic…if only enough people see it.

After a great deal of post-production delays, Trick ‘r Treat skipped out on theatres and hit the shelves in DVD and Blu-ray format, leaving anxious horror fans eager to scoop them up. Because I rarely purchase films before seeing them, I patiently waited for the film’s status on my Netflix queue (positioned at #1) to drop from “Very Long Wait” to “Short Wait” to all of the sudden it’s in my mailbox! Unfortunately, this process was over a month long. Trick ‘r Treat is right up there with The Hills Run Red and Wrong Turn 3 in my record book of longest wait-time on Netflix.  I finally got the third installment in the Wrong Turn series, so a review will be up soon, and The Hills Run Red…well I’m still waiting on that one.


Can I go home now Mr. Principal?

I hate to use the word “hype,” so I’m going to say there was a great deal of anticipation surrounding Trick ‘r Treat. I avoided detailed reviews, but couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by unanimously positive feedback from the horror community. I prefer to watch a movie, knowing as little as possible. However, I am glad I was bestowed with the knowledge of the anthology style of Trick ‘r Treat. Otherwise, I quite possibly could have been lost and annoyed by the apparent aimlessness of the first half of the film. Instead, I was able to enjoy the mishmash of stories occurring in the small town, musing over how they will eventually connect. If I were to select an overall thread that weaves the story together, it would be described as a theme of Halloween spirit—a vengeful spirit that seeks havoc on those who disrespect tradition. The entire film juxtaposes modern indifference toward the essence of the holiday with a nostalgic passion of enriched tradition.

Ditching her Rogue costume this year...

One of my favorite aspects of Trick ‘r Treat is the fragility of expectations. Each small story contains many twists and turns, rarely allowing the audience to get ahead of the filmmakers. The lore of vampires, werewolves, psychopaths, zombies, ghosts, jack-o-lanterns, magic, and Halloween itself are all interwoven to create a film that defies generic conventions while simultaneously paying tribute to them.  You don’t have to be a horror fan (although it helps) to appreciate the clever exploration of the macabre, as the variety of characters is sure to appeal to most everyone.

Pumpkin smashing time!

On a technical level, the film is outstanding. With some of the best cinematography and production design I’ve seen in recent years, Trick ‘r Treat is an amazing visual experience. The filmmakers allow you to taste, breathe, and feel Halloween better than any other film I can think of. Most modern horror films seem to come in two visual styles: the handheld, gritty aesthetic and the glossed over, Hollywood-friendly mise-en-scéne. Trick ‘r Treat takes a refreshingly traditional approach to cinematography, with beautifully composed shots and carefully thought-out camera moves. Every choice is made for a reason. Movement, whether dollying or tilting, is conducted with a specific purpose. Lighting, whether vibrant or dark, is utilized to evoke tone. To match the cinematography are brilliant sets that truly make the holiday festivities come alive. The costuming of Sam, the visual design of the town’s decorations, the intricate jack-o-lanterns, and the overall atmosphere make this film a visceral pleasure.

Flaming jack-o-lantern...nope, usually not a good sign.

While I do have some nitpicky issues with Trick ‘r Treat, I don’t really feel the need to discuss them. Perhaps the biggest issue is the disjointed narrative itself. However, after looking back at the film, I see it as more of an ode to Halloween tradition and an accompaniment to the holiday than as a standard piece of filmmaking. Just as It’s a Wonderful Life has become synonymous with Christmas, I think this film has the same potential, but I’m afraid the tradition of Trick ‘r Treat may only be carried out by a niche horror community. Let’s hope that’s not the case.

12.09.2009

A Sincere Message to My Readers

Today, I not only broke 100 followers, but I also gained one extra. With 101 followers on The Horror Effect, I would like to say thank you to my readers and friends who have helped me expand my blog. Even when I had a small number of followers, I have always been impressed by the amount of interaction I’ve had with readers. Out of my 115 posts, I only have 4 with 0 comments—most of which were made during the infancy of the site. On average, there are about 7 comments per post.  To me, this is more important the number of followers. It signifies that a large number of people are actually participating in discussions on The Horror Effect, as opposed to being passive readers.

Some of you have proven to be more than just a casual follower or a random commenter, you have become my friend (ok…cyber friend). Recently, you have shown your support on a couple different occasions. Even though I had a relatively small number of votes in the Ms. Horror Blogosphere competition, I was still impressed that the amount of people who thought me worthy of the title exceeded a single digit number. Thanks for taking the time to vote. Even more recently, I’ve undergone a great deal of stress as I move into another transitional stage in my life. You guys—fans of the macabre and bloody—voiced sincere comments to lift me up. So take that to those who think we’re a bunch of heartless nihilists.

I started The Horror Effect because I felt isolated in my horror fandom. As cheesy as it sounds, this site has filled a void in my life. Everyone needs an expressive outlet, a place to share their ideas, or to connect with people that possess the same interests.  I’m proud of the networking , social, and personal opportunities I have experienced  with The Horror Effect. Thank you for being a part of this!

12.08.2009

Dead End (2003): A Fun Indie Ride



Although the premise lends itself to repetition and an underwhelming conclusion, Dead End is still an enjoyable example of low-budget filmmaking that smartly maintains a simple scope.

 At the center of the film is a family on a Christmas Eve road trip that has occurred for the past 20 years. The self-important father decides to take a different route as opposed to the freeway path that annual tradition dictates. Since this is a horror film we’re watching, we know that this was a bad choice. Beginning with small occurrences and building with eerie tones, the film slowly escalates into an endless, horrifying night for the family. However, before the horror begins, the filmmakers wisely give us ample opportunity to get to know the characters. This is important because, by the end of the film, we realize that its primary purpose was a character study on the family as a whole, as well as the role each individual plays.

At the helm of the family are two experienced actors: Lin Shaye and Ray Wise. The mother and father’s bickering is fun to watch. One of my favorite scenes takes place when Shaye makes annoying noise as she drinks out of her water bottle. Wise glares at her and complains, to which she responds, “I can’t help it. It’s just the way I drink.” It’s simple, unexpected disputes that place their squabbling above the trite scenarios seen in countless films displaying a turbulent marital relationship. The two children, as well as the daughter’s long-time boyfriend, do not boast performances as interesting as the parents. Although they are passable, there are definitely a couple moments where inexperience becomes apparent in clichéd deliveries. As a whole, the filmmakers present a realistic, complex family that is forced to deal with decades of hidden issues on a single night.


As the family’s SUV hauls down the desolate road, the lack of other vehicles and signs of life become more apparent. The turning point comes when they spot a woman in white, carrying a child. Believing her to be a wandering accident victim, they try to help the woman by searching for a phone in an abandoned cabin. This woman turns out to be anything but a victim. Every time they encounter her, another person disappears. Without divulging too many details, I can say that the deaths are handled quite well. As opposed to focusing on gore or even fear, deaths are used to heighten the mystery of this isolated country road that they are trapped on.


In addition to supernatural happenings, the sanity of the family comes into question. The infinite blacktop stretches before them, making their quest seem futile. The crazy factor is executed particular well by Shaye, who made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions. The best part is when she stuffs her face with potato chips and holiday pie until she pukes. In the midst of the obscure sightings of the woman in white, the tediousness of the endless road, and the deteriorating mental states, there is a remarkable amount of suspense and intrigue created from such a simple premise.


While the film has its share of moments that are obviously hindered by budgetary constraints and less-than-top-notch acting, the filmmakers were wise to maintain a simple scale for a movie that is primarily focused on the journey of its characters as opposed to fantastic events. I didn’t know what to expect from Dead End, and I’m certainly glad I gave it a chance because it is so different from the usual, more provocative horror fare that I’m accustomed to.

12.07.2009

Thanksgiving on Elm Street Part 7





As much as I’ve been slacking on the blog, I really appreciate all the support and well-wishes from you guys. Wow, it sounds like someone died. Regardless, even though it’s not that big of a deal, you guys made it worth your time to leave some comments that made me feel better. And I appreciate it. Now, I’m happy to finally conclude the Thanksgiving on Elm Street posts with:
New Nightmare
If Wes Craven is coming back and we’re at sequel number seven, you know something’s up. You better be prepared for a sequel that is quite different from the others, explores uncharted territory, and attempts to bring some degree of seriousness back to Freddy Krueger. Although many fans are prone to disown the film from the series and it may be construed as “not a true Nightmare movie,” I am actually a supporter of Craven’s chosen path. It allows for gravity, as well as levity. For once, Freddy can be taken seriously and that’s something that every Nightmare fan can appreciate. Although Freddy’s new look is a tad, um, plasticy, the tonality is much darker. This is especially true because Freddy’s attacks are primarily aimed at Heather Langenkamp's young son, Dylan. There are a couple of genuinely creepy scenes featuring Dylan in a trance-like state under the control of Freddy. Still, there are also plenty of great comedic moments throughout the movie, as well as fun nods to the original film. It’s like a “Where’s Waldo?” game for homages. Every time you watch it, I’m sure you’ll find more.


The concept is brilliant: Freddy transcends multiple realities, dreams as well as film. In New Nightmare, Freddy can simultaneously be a slasher movie icon, as well as a genuine threat to people in the real world. As strange as it may sound, it actually goes along with the metaphysical world established in the other films. Freddy Krueger is largely dependent on the imagination. If he can enter through the mind’s fictional dream world, why couldn’t he then enter through the cinema’s fictional story world? This setup not only allows for an amusing experience for the horror fan (although admittedly gimmicky), it serves as a perfect way to explore themes of horror spectatorship. Is horror a reflection of the violence in reality? Or is it some sick fascination playing out of subconscious desires? Do we revel in a fantasy so long that it becomes difficult to disconnect from it? Perhaps Craven is taking a hyperbolic approach to answering the question of the impact media violence has on its viewers. Through his hyperbole, he seems to be criticizing that notion—arguing that horror ultimately comes through the self, not through the medium. New Nightmare also appears to be an early (and more extreme) experimentation of similar themes of self-reflexivity that Craven later raised in Scream.



While there is plenty of room for an intellectual reading of New Nightmare, it’s still a piece of entertainment, fused with inside jokes and convoluted logic. It has plenty of bad moments, along with some great scenes. I give Wes Craven all the credit in the world for being bold and explorative, even if the results may be hit or miss. For this edition of Thanksgiving on Elm Street, I’m going to share some very intriguing trivia.

-The same plot was originally drafted for Dream Warriors in 1987, but the concept was rejected. This may have been a better choice, but not only because I love the third installment. It also allowed the series to become so prolific that the themes of New Nightmare are presented with much more potency as a seventh film, as opposed to third.

-All of the scenes with earthquakes were filmed one month before the big L.A. earthquake in 1994. Two weeks before the end of the entire shoot, the big one hit. They filmed the actual damage from the earthquake and it appears in the movie when Heather is driving.


-Freddy’s new glove, which is said to be more organic, was inspired by Theatrical poster artwork for the original film.

- Lin Shaye, who could be considered a genre actress, plays the role of a nurse in New Nightmare, as well as a teacher in the 1984 film.


-Jessica Craven, Wes Craven’s daughter, has a bit part as a nurse.

-Heather Langenkamp had a stalker in real life. Craven asked permission to write that storyline into the script
.
-Heather tells the nurse, “Screw Your Pass,” when she enters a restricted area of the hospital. She says the same thing in the original film regarding a hall pass at school.


-The working title of the film was A Nightmare on Elm Street 7: The Ascension


-Although the movie didn’t fare as well as other Nightmare films in theatres, it still made over twice its budget after making a total of $18 million in domestic box office revenue

-Here is what Roger Ebert has to say about the film:
Serious fans of horror movies relate only in a secondary way to the chills themselves; they're connoisseurs of the genre, the special effects, the makeup, the in-jokes. They're going to love this movie, which seems to have been made not only for but by Fangoria fans. But it also works for general audiences. I haven't been exactly a fan of the "Nightmare" series, but I found this movie, with its unsettling questions about the effect of horror on those who create it, strangely intriguing. (click here for entire review)

12.05.2009

I Got PWNED



Where have I been lately? Why have I betrayed my Thanksgiving on Elm Street responsibilities? Why haven’t I been commenting as frequently on your awesome blog? Because I suck at life…Well, actually it’s because of work and then a random decision that I made this week.



Firstly, we had a gargantuan delivery deadline for the documentary that I have been editing. Of course, when it comes to technology, nothing works when it is supposed to and it especially doesn’t work when you are under time constraints. As a result of error after error, render after render, export after export, I worked straight from 11am on Monday through 4pm on Wednesday. Don’t ever think about doing that to yourself! It KILLED me, but much-deserved sleep over the weekend has brought me back to life for the time being. Another hint for editors out there: Never allow your director to picture lock just two days before delivery. I’ll never ever let that happen again. This arduous process of filmmaking is especially tough when it is not your film. Sure, I’ve deprived myself of more sleep than should be allowed of a human being, but it’s been for my own movies. Even when you are getting paid, it is a hellish time.

Secondly, I have been thinking about continuing my education for a while. I was a Film Production major, but I also minored in Legal Studies. I’ve been mulling over attending law school for a long time. In fact, I almost applied last year. I had taken the LSAT, wrote my essays, collected my recommendation letters, and paid for that damn LSAC service that is required of us. However, it just wasn’t the time to do it, especially since my husband is still completing his Bachelor’s degree. Now, though, he is applying to graduate school and I decided to jump back on the higher education bandwagon. I’m applying to law school again, as well as a graduate program. Because I randomly decided to do this so late in the fall, I have to work hard to get my applications in on time. I also have to take another standardized test, the GRE, which I will be taking on Wednesday. Thank goodness they have computer-based test so I could register with less than a week’s notice.

Anyway, I don’t usually discuss so much about my personal life, especially since I don’t think anyone (other than a few of you) will actually read it. I just felt compelled to 1) explain why I’ve been largely MIA , 2) foreshadow any future disappearances (temporary of course) from the blog scene, and 3) vent about some frustrations. Thanks for reading.  

12.04.2009

Thanksgiving on Elm Street Part 6



I watched this movie on November 28th and here I am…a week later finally writing this review. I can’t say that I didn’t warn you that my job was keeping me from my more important work here. It was a terrible week, which included work days that violate all sorts of labor laws. No sleep, hardly any meal breaks, and no overtime. Sigh.I’m almost recovered after sleeping two full nights, so I'm ready to get back on track with:

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare


I don’t hate Freddy’s Dead, but I don’t necessarily like it all that much. It’s a 3D movie long after the gimmick is staring to get old. It’s the 90’s. Horror is running dry, and so is the series. There’s only so much you can ask of a sequel when it hits number 6. Freddy’s jokes are painfully bad, but we get a couple little gems here and there. The kills are low in number, but are drawn out and almost clever. My favorite part about this movie is how much we see of Freddy Krueger in human form. It’s fun to see Robert Englund as a child murderer—as opposed to a scarred-up dream killer that goes after teens. I’ve always wanted to see a prequel to Nightmare on Elm Street. Instead of another sequel or remake, why not explore uncharted territory that is sure to be interesting? Perhaps because it’s not fun to see little kiddies get murdered.

I would like to spend this edition of Thanksgiving on Elm Street discussing The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from the sixth installment. This movie is often called the worst in the series, with Parts 2 and 5 close behind it. So let’s take a holistic look.

THE GOOD:



-Freddy’s Power Glove Joke
-Robert Englund gets some real face time
-Breckin Meyer and Yaphet Kotto play major roles
-Johnny Depp, Bob Shaye, Alice Cooper, Tom Arnold, and Roseanne have cameos…wait let’s take Roseanne off the “Good” list
-The montage of Freddy’s life during the credits
-“Kung Fu THIS bitch!”

THE BAD:



-“Only you could have brought me out…in your mind!”
-Another unnecessarily convoluted plotline
-When Doc tells Maggie to put on the special glasses, which blatantly say 3D on the side, to help fight Freddy in her dream
-“I’m still seeing things the way I did in my dream…”
-The first female to direct a Freddy film and I can’t say she makes us look good



THE UGLY:

-Nietzsche title card
-The hokey Wizard of Oz reference
-“No honey for Daddy?”
-Springwood turns into the Twilight Zone for some reason
-The Dream Worms…I mean Demons
-There are 3 songs on the soundtrack by The Goo Goo Dolls…really?


11.28.2009

Thanksgiving on Elm Street Part 5



Life is busy, but we must always make time for the things we love. Watching Freddy make bad jokes as he murders teenagers, playing the occasional game of Left 4 Dead 2, and sleeping next to my husband at night are the only things keeping me sane right now. I’m going to be happy when November is over, even though I am enjoying the fall leaves at the moment. It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy…

Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child


Alice, the timid red head from The Dream Master, has now become a blonde hottie (nude scene included) dating the star quarterback. 180-degree character turnaround aside, I always appreciate a sequel that attempts to continue the storyline where it was left off. This may sound simple, but in the world of 80’s slasher sequels, a severe lack of series chronology is not uncommon. The Dream Child has its share of problems in that regard as well. The dream/Freddy metaphysics are toyed with once again, but I don’t really mind. It’s always entertaining to see new ways that Freddy can come back from the “dead.” The canine urine from Part 4 has to be the worst. Not to mention, the amusing methods of dispatching Mr. Krueger that are conjured up.
 
The Dream Child brings us some elaborate set pieces that are quite fun. While I don’t find the kills particularly clever, they are at least memorable and visually engaging. Dan gets turned into Ghost Rider, Greta gets stuffed with food, and Mark battles Freddy in the comic book world. However, that’s only three deaths! Although the movie is by no means boring, the lack of kills is definitely noticed. This movie does bring us more backstory on Amanda Krueger and the “Son of 100 maniacs” exposition. They also throw Robert Englund himself (without the makeup) in the crowd of maniacs. Har har. At this point, you can definitely tell the series is starting to run out of steam, even though I still enjoyed the heck out of the fifth installment. For this edition of Thanksgiving on Elm Street, I thought I would share some interesting trivia once again.



- Jacob (Alice’s little boy) says “School’s out Krueger!” However, the original line was supposed to read, “Fuck you Krueger!” The child’s guardians did not allow him to say the scripted line.

-The original script was completely revised at the last minute. The final shooting screenplay was compiled just days before filming began.


-Director Stephen Hopkins was given the Predator 2 gig as a result of his speedy work with The Dream Child.


-The film was shot in just four weeks and edited in another four.

-Allegedly, Stephen King and Frank Miller were offered to write and direct.


-All of the deaths suffered major cuts to obtain an R-rating.

-It made just $8.1 million on its opening weekend and left the box office at $22.1 million, which made it the lowest grossing Nightmare on Elm Street film.

-Bruce Dickenson, lead singer of Iron Maiden, wrote and performed the song “Bring your Daughter…to the Slaughter” for this film. It was later re-recorded by the entire band and was their only #1 single in the UK.



11.27.2009

Thanksgiving on Elm Street Part 4


Oh my goodness…It’s been far too long since I’ve posted on the Nightmare on Elm Street films. I’ve been crazy busy with work and my themed-month is taking a major hit because of it. I’m still trucking away at this though!!!! Moving right along to…
Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
The story beings with the returning characters of Kristen (only played by someone else), Kincaid, and Joey, except we are back in a “normal” high school environment where the teens are trying to forget about the existence of Freddy Krueger. Eventually, these guys start dropping like flies and we get a new collection of high schoolers to predict the deaths of. All in all, it’s a pretty decent sequel, considering it’s the 4th entry. After overcoming the hurdle of finding a way to resurrect Freddy, the movie is then charged with the task of giving us new and interesting kills. It certainly does that, with some of the most unique in the series, even if the dream metaphysics are a tad strange in this one. Helmed by Renny Harlin, this is one of the most visually interesting films in the series and contains countless sight gags. Plus, there’s this whole self-reflexivity thing going on with mirrors and movie screens. It’s only marginally interesting and doesn’t seem like a whole lot of thought was put into it, other than “Hey that’s cool”; so I won’t really talk about that. For this entry, I thought I would go back to the fun little award show setup I did for some of the Friday films. So cue the cheesy classical music…

BEST 80’s MONTAGE:
NOMINEES:
-Rick practices karate to “Anything, Anything” by Dramarama.
-Debbie works out to the annoying “I Want Your (Hands On Me)” by Sinéad O’Conner.
-Alice dons all her friend’s cool clothing and looks at her bad self in the mirror and says, “Fucking A.”

AND THE WINNER IS…
Alice becomes cool montage. From the close ups on the bracelets to the reveal of a less-than-exciting outfit…This montage is perfect.


BEST WORST LINE:
NOMINEES:

-Debbie: “What 17-year-old has fatal asthma?”
-Kristen: “In case you haven’t been keeping score, it’s his fucking banquet and I’m the last course!”
-Kristen: “Alice, you’ll need my power!”

AND THE WINNER IS…
Kristen’s banquet speech. Who says things like that? It hardly makes sense in the context of the conversation.


BEST FREDDY PUN:
NOMINEES:
I couldn’t choose just three…

-“Welcome to Wonderland, Alice.” When Alice combats Freddy in the dream land.
-“Why don’t you reach out and cut someone?” Trying to get Kristen to pull people into her dream.
-“How’s this for a wet dream?” Killing Joey in his water bed.
-“Mmm…Rick, you little meatball. I love soul food.” Eating the souls of people on a meatball pizza.
-“Wanna’ suck face?” Before he sucks the life out of Sheila…literally.

AND THE WINNER IS…
This is a tough one, but it’s going to go to the wet dream line. It actually made me laugh out loud because it probably suits the scenario more than any of the others.


BEST KILL:
NOMINEES:

-Sheila: Freddy kisses her and sucks her life out, turning her into a lifeless mummy thing.
-Rick: After he fights the invisible Freddy (who imitates a Ninja master), he is stabbed by Freddy’s floating glove.
-Debbie: She is turned into a roach and transported in to a little Roach Motel that Freddy squishes.

AND THE WINNER IS…
The winner is definitely Debbie! The scene is pretty nasty, as her arms are first broken at the elbows and slowly become roach legs. Her transformation looks great and it’s something everyone remembers from the movies.


Note: The Debbie and Joey death pics were lifted from a cool article on I-Mockery.com. If you click on the pics, it will take you to the article.

11.26.2009

What I’m Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving guys! I hope you are enjoying yourself today, whether or not you celebrate…you most likely have the day off from work or school. I’ve always liked Thanksgiving because I love food and because I like to share the day with family and friends. Today, I thought I’d post on a few things I’m thankful for as a horror fan.

I am thankful for…


The Internet:
It’s given us Netflix, blogs, dedicated horror sites, and much more. I’ve discovered new movies and actually found ways of getting my hands on rare titles because of the internet. Relying on the selection at Blockbuster was never fun. It also presents great avenues of discussion for horror fans, since it’s definitely difficult to have a conversation about Troll 2 with most people.


German Expressionism:
German Expressionism is a major influence on the horror genre (and you could even argue that it’s part of its origin). The 1920’s movement brought us The Cabinent of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, and The Golem. Using surrealism, fantastical plots, macabre tones, and dark atmospheres, we should be thankful for the works of Murnau and Wiene.


The Decline of the Studio System:
After the vertical and horizontal monopolies of the major film studios were declared unconstitutional, all bets were off. Years later, the rise of the independent movement occurred in the sixties and seventies. We all know that studio interference often leads to terrible films, especially in the horror genre. As a result of this independence, we were given classics like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween.


Wes Craven:
The man has given us a variety of films that have been influential over the decades. Beginning with the exploitation style of The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, Craven delivered a raw, controversial filmmaking to audiences. Years later, he brought us one of the most commercially successful horror series with Nightmare on Elm Street. Bringing Freddy into our lives is nothing but great. However, he doesn’t stop there. He put horror back in the 90’s with Scream. Whether or not you like the franchise, it inspired countless horror entries to entertain ourselves with in the years following its release.


Bruce Campbell:
He will make any day better. Just pop in Army of Darkness and you’ll instantly be accompanied by a wide grin. With a great sense of humor and a loveable autobiography, Campbell makes himself accessible to fans. Plus, he shows up in random movies all the time (not just the Raimi ones) and it makes me happy.



Halloween:
This movie changed my life. It got me interested in filmmaking and inspired me to get creative on a low budget. The simplicity and scariness of Michael Myers became a staple of the slasher genre. Not only am I thankful for its direct impact on my career choice, but I am also thankful for the countless imitation films that followed.

11.24.2009

Fulfill Your Civic Duty as Citizens of the Horror Blogosphere


It's time to vote for Ms. Horror Blogosphere. Of course I would appreciate some support, especially since many of the contestants have much more experience and readership than me. But that might be a reason why they deserve the label more than me. I think it is also a nice gesture to support B-Sol's competition, regardless of who you vote for. He has put a lot of work into this and the spotlighted blogs are the main benefactors of the contest. So let's hope the voter turnout is better than in the American political environment, which isn't hard to do...

Go Here to vote. On the right, there is a gray bar where you can select the candidate. It will stay up on the main page of The Vault of Horror until the end of the voting period. You can only vote once, but you have until Friday, December 4th to do it.

All Work and No Play

I wanted to apologize for my lack of activity lately. I've been incredibly busy with the documentary I am editing. We have a major delivery deadline a week from now, so I will continue to work intensely until then. That said, I may be a little late on a few of the Nightmare reviews for Thanksgiving on Elm Street. I'll do my best to get them all in by November, but it's not looking good at this point. Hopefully, Part 4 and 5 will be up soon. Also, reviews for Dead End and Trick 'r Treat are on their way. Just bear with me...

11.21.2009

Deadgirl (2008): No Thank You





This movie is sick and twisted, which is not inherently bad. However, its choice to stew in the depravity, rather than to move forward with a compelling story and interesting ideas, make it an unrewarding experience.

Before I begin reviewing the movie, I wanted to relay a funny coincidence with you all. In the middle of watching Deadgirl, one of Rickie’s teachers pops up in the library. The actor is the same person who played the lead in my thesis film “Among Wolves.”Apparently, he has acted in several B-movies and low-budget horror films. It completely caught me off guard and made me laugh. This reminded me of some other interesting things that occurred when I was casting “Among Wolves” that horror fans might appreciate. Daeg Faerch’s (Young Michael in Zombie’s Halloween) mother auditioned for a small role in my movie. Her husband and Daeg tagged along for the audition. The whole family acts. As much as I wanted to cast her because of her connection to Halloween, she was not quite right for the part. Who did I cast instead? Hunter Leah from The Quick and the Undead. What a funny world.

The second choice for Mr. Euro Trash from Twilight.

Anyway, back to the movie. Deadgirl is a tough film to watch. Full of sexual deviance, unsympathetic characters, moral ineptitude, and just plain wrongness, it is definitely not recommended viewing for most audiences. At first, I was intrigued. Rickie and J.T. seemed like they were going to be a fun pair of high school outsiders to follow. Their exploration of the abandoned insane asylum leads to the miraculous discovery of a dead girl who is not quite dead. How did she get there? Why is there? Is she alive or dead? Is she human? Is she fully conscious? Dozens of questions begin circulating through the character’s and viewer’s heads. Unfortunately, very few of these questions are answered. Instead of exploring what I thought would be more interesting subject matter (i.e. the dead girl’s story), the movie dwells on the disgusting actions committed by the supporting cast and the frustrating inaction of the lead.

Not cool.

 I’m not opposed to dark films. I’m also not opposed to films that display abhorrent behavior. What I don’t like about Deadgirl is not that it glorifies such behavior, but that it fails to comment on it. Sure, what is occurring onscreen is obviously not intended to be seen as acceptable, but what are the filmmakers trying to say when everyone who discovers the dead girl (with the exception of the lead) decides to conduct sexual activity with a corpse-like body held captive? Are we to expect nothing more of the men of the world than to be so misogynistic that issues like rape, necrophilia, and sickness hardly faze them? Some may argue that the main character represents a foil to all this madness, but I don’t think this is the case. He submits to the behavior through indecision, inaction, and incompetence. How does he arrive at the decision that he is okay with the rape of the dead girl? That he is okay with keeping a girl chained up for the sexual satisfaction of his buddies? He may not support it, but he is obviously not affected enough to do anything about it.

That's right. Just stare a little longer. 
You suck, Rickie.

The love story that sparsely populates a story about sexual violence is also concerning. Oddly, Rickie’s obsession with JoAnn is depicted as one of the reasons why he does not engage in sexual conduct with the dead girl. I get the impression that had JoAnn not been a part of his life, he would have been less inclined to turn down his chances with the dead girl. Did our lead really need extra ammunition? Couldn’t the fact that participating in such behavior is simply wrong be enough of a reason?

SPOILERS BELOW

In the end, when JoAnn is dying, Rickie decides to turn her into a dead girl as well so that he can be with her. This tells me that he never truly loved her; she was an object of aesthetic appreciation…nothing more. If he really loved her, then he would let her go instead of transforming her into an inhuman beast held against her will. Again, I ask…what are the filmmakers trying to say here? If you can’t get it, force it?

END SPOILERS

Can you find the non-jock in this picture?


Aside from the dark themes, Deadgirl is an only marginally competent film. It does succeed in establishing tone, but the screenwriting, acting, and editing detracted from what could have been an interesting story. Admittedly, the beginning of the film is suspenseful, creepy, and had me wanting to find out what happened next. Yet, instead of expanding beyond the sexual deviance plot, it just lingers in it. The dissolving friendship between J.T. and Rickie comes in to play only when it’s convenient, as does the Rickie’s fascination with JoAnn. While there are a couple scenes with comic relief, the subject matter doesn’t allow for much of an emotional palette. The film feels like a synopsis…it never really gets beyond its initial premise.  Most of the acting is good, but in a film like this, it’s quite noticeable when someone is not performing well. The jocks and JoAnn, in particular, are distracting. At times, I even found J.T. and Rickie to be less than convincing, but they were mostly solid. In conjunction with the storyline stretched thing, the editing makes the film drag through its 100 minutes. Some scenes feel too long, whereas others feel too short to have any consequence. I also think a slightly different cut would have diminished some of the poor acting, but I may be presuming too much.

All in all, Deadgirl  is a heavy film with style, but lacks substance and storytelling craft. It skims the surface of a lot of issues, but never presents an intellectual conversation and never allows for a real emotional investment.  
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