Happy Halloween from The Horror Effect!

The big day is here! Time for us to act like six-year-olds on Christmas morning. Halloween is here!!! I'd like to wish you all a happy and safe holiday, whether you spend it watching AMC's FearFest followed by the premiere of The Walking Dead, getting inebriated at a party, dressing up for an elaborate costume contest, attending haunted houses and corn mazes, or maybe even tick-or-treating. Unfortunately, I didn't host a party this year, but I do plan on attending a local haunted forest this evening. A report will follow in November.

And of course, last weekend Nick and I carved ourselves some pumpkins. Mine was a mere 26 pounds, while Nick's weighed in slightly under 30. Needless to say, there were plenty of orange guts to clean up after words. Definitely worth it though!

Becky's Jack-O-Lantern: Boo, the ghost from Mario.

Nick's Jack-O-Lantern: Predator

And with Pumpkin Spice Mousse and Pumpkin Pie Ice-Cream for later, I'm looking forward to a festive dessert! Hope your holiday is equally as tasty.


Romero Week at The Death Rattle

Head on over to The Death Rattle for George Romero week! What better time to celebrate everyone's favorite zombie maker? Not only is Aaron creating a Top 13 list of Romero films, he has also asked yours truly to contribute a guest post. I prepared a mix between a retrospective on the original Night of the Living Dead and an analysis of the decline of the zombie sub-genre. Sounds fun? You bet! Plus, you'll also find great pieces from the minds behind I Like Horror Movies, Agitation of the Mind, and Cool Ass Cinema. And if you're not following The Death Rattle, be sure to start doing so. Aaron is one of the best horror bloggers out there.


My Soul To Take (2010): Better than you think

Firstly, this movie is actually pretty unique. Despite the baseless claims that Wes Craven was borrowing from his previous works, My Soul To Take has a completely different style than his other films and a storyline that resembles no other teen slasher. There was something almost refreshing about My Soul To Take, almost similar to a feeling of nostalgia as if I were returning to a long-lost form of cinema. Dramatic reminiscing aside, it's a good film with a few matters of contention here and there.  

The premise is this: the soul of a serial killer, the Riverton Ripper, enters the body of a child born on the same night of his death. Seven local kids share a birthday with the famed killer of their hometown, but which one will take the Ripper's place? Sixteen years later, the film introduces us to the Riverton Seven struggling through the cruel politics of high school, while participating in annual rituals to keep the Ripper's ghost away. The intricacies of the social environment at this high school is rather ridiculous, but it all strangely works for the movie. Building strong myth in a modern era, it was nice to see a town shrouded in some old school superstition. It's fun not to have a million conversations about how ghosts, spirits, and other supernatural elements don't exist. I appreciated a group of kids that lived in the shadow of the past and feared the unknown powers of evil. 
First sign of evil: high school hipsters surround you.

Though Wes Craven calls this his most personal film, it's all still executed in a fun, but grounded way. Hyperbolic examples of high school hierarchy and elaborate Ripper ceremonies show a lighthearted aspect of the horror genre that is seriously lacking. As stated, the film is still grounded in a dark reality. Much of the film's heavy thematics revolve around Bug, the film's lead. Suffering from some clear psychological issues and an inability to realize his masculinity, Bug has a strange aura of innocence and dangerous anger. This works so well for the film and is really what drives the suspense forward. It was a pretty bold move to make the title character so strange. And indeed, his actions become so bizarre, you'll definitely start questioning whether or not he may be taking the place of the Riverton Ripper. 

Max Thieriot's performance as Bug is exceptional. In fact, all of the teens are surprisingly good. Ironically, when the movie first began, I thought the actors would be the downside of the film. The adult performers are stiff and awkward, especially in the opening scenes. However, once the Riverton Seven are introduced, performance becomes one of the film's greatest assets. 

Bug says, "No more post-conversion."

It's not all songs of praise for My Soul To Take. The film is not scary at all. I know I'm rarely actually scared by a horror film, but I still feel a rush of anxiety during intense scenes and I still feel scared for the characters every now and then. But in My Soul To Take, I didn't ever feel those things. I did like the lead character and connected with him, but I never feared for his life. Perhaps that's because in the back of my mind I was wondering if he really was the murderer. There's still plenty of mystery and suspense to keep the film moving, but don't expect anything along the lines of Scream or Nightmare on Elm Street. Think more like Shocker...but not as silly.

My Soul To Take may not be great, but it is good and it is original. If a movie fails to scare me, then it can at least entertain me with new ideas. Craven achieves that here. Unfortunately, creative horror films like this are too often at the shallow end of the box office, while we all know what brings in bank. Give it a shot if you can still find it playing. 

P.S. I didn't bother with 3D on this one.


T-Shirts, T-Shirts, Everywhere!

If you're feeling the Halloween spirit and would like some new festive attire, check out some of these websites to bulk up your horror wardrobe:

Crazy Dog T-Shirts:
The site has kindly offered readers of The Horror Effect $5 off of their purchase from now until Halloween. Just enter the following code: HALLO5Check out their zombie section, Halloween shirts, and Halloween costumes. I really want this hoodie:

These guys are also running a Halloween sale until November 1st. All Halloween shirts are just $10. Plus, they will send a "Trick or Tee" mystery shirt from their Halloween collection for $5 extra with your purchase. Let fate decide your wardrobe. This shirt, "When Pandas Attack," makes me very happy:

Of course, you all should know about Fright-Rags, but in case you haven't heard, they're amazing. I own five of their shirts, including a special edition Friday the 13th print and special edition Ladies of the Evil Dead print. You get 10% off of your first purchase, if you sign up for their newsletter (which is not spam; it's always useful). One of their newer shirts:


My First Feature Horror Film

So I’ve been up to something lately. You may have noticed my sporadic bouts of absence from the horror blogosphere over the past couple of months. I wish I could say I was out saving the world or something, but I’ve been working on the next best thing: my first feature horror film. (Besides the one I made in junior high--that doesn't count because it's terrible)

The film is titled Break and here is the synopsis: Reunited for the weekend, a group of friends are driven to violence when an unknown force seems to bring out the worst in them. Who will be the first to break?

Melissa Fisher as Angela

My husband and I made Break in about two weeks for a couple thousand dollars, using non-professional actors and hardly any crew. Relying on friends, family, and film students, Break was somewhat of an experiment to see if we could really make a feature film. Well, our hypothesis was correct: we could do it and we did.

Break was one of those projects that kept evolving over time. The story was changed to accommodate budget, the cast was swapped at the last minute due to schedules, and Nick and I found ourselves constantly filling in crew (and even cast) positions at the last minute. However, I believe that the best directors are those who understand every job on set and the best way to understand those jobs is by actually doing them. Ideally, it wouldn’t be all at once, but hey, at the end of the day the movie needs to get made regardless of who does what. We learned so much from the experience of Break and I wouldn’t trade all of the trials and tribulation for a smooth ride.
Danny Bauer as Kane

I just created a blog for the film, which you can find here. Follow for updates on the future of the project, as we send it out to contests, festivals, and whatever else comes our way. We just entered the film into the “Big Break Movie Contest,” which is sponsored by Rogue and offers the chance to have your feature film screen at 50 AMC theatres. There are some awesome films submitted already, so go check them out. And if you feel compelled, please rate the trailer for Break here. I don’t think the rating actually impacts the contest, but it can’t hurt.

If anyone is interested in obtaining a screener, just let me know and I’d be happy to send you one—don’t worry, no rave reviews required. =P I know the movie isn’t perfect, but I am curious to see what people (especially horror fans) think of it.


The Final Chapter on the Big Screen

Before tonight, the only films in the Friday the 13th series that I had seen in a theatrical setting were Freddy vs. Jason and the remake. So of course when I had the opportunity to see one of the most beloved of the sequels, I was excited. Central Cinema in Seattle not only screened Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (Part IV), but also held a pre-show from the Bloodsquad--in which they improvised a live version of a slasher film.

The comedy group first asked the audience to pick a fake name for a slasher movie. Someone immediately shouted, “Let’s Kill a Co-Ed.” And with that, the Bloodsquad improvised a ten-minute collegiate slasher on stage. Poking fun at Final Girl clichés and creating a rather impressive beatbox version of Manfredini’s F13 score, I can’t think of a better way to get ready to watch some classic 80’s Jason carnage.

Luckily, the audience was just as excited as I was. Guffawing at Crispin Glover’s hideous dancing (the theatre also screened an extended version of his dance from the outtakes prior to the film) and cheering whenever Ted White's Jason graced the screen, I was in horror fan heaven. My favorite part about the night was when the audience counted out the deaths, yelling “1” after the first death and so on. Some began to lose count and others got confused about the mother’s off-screen death. However, myself and a couple other faithful fans knew the real score. In the end, Jason kills 13.

Seeing a classic Friday film on the big screen was way more fun than I could have anticipated. There’s something about the high-pitched score surrounding you and seeing girls catapulted out of windows in slow motion. The Final Chapter still plays great to an audience. Now let’s hope I get to see Part II (my personal favorite) in a similar fashion someday.


The Craft (1996): When California teens dabble in witchcraft

Not nearly as frightening as the sensationalism surrounding election season, The Craft brings us the dark world of the occult as seen through the eyes of a thirteen year old. Jammed with young 90's stars and an alternative rock soundtrack, this movie is nothing more than a  time capsule for the modern audience.
Going to a wealthy private school in Southern California is soooo hard.

With Robin Tunney, Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Breckin Meyer, Christine Taylor,  and the stereotypical goth chick--Fairuza Balk, The Craft plays like a 1996 yearbook. The setup is equally as dated: three wannabe witches convert the new girl into their coven so they can wreak havoc on fellow high schoolers who wrong them.  So it sounds like Heathers, but with a 90's goth twist, right? Unfortunately, The Craft doesn't believe in satire. Nor does it have the nerve to blatantly execute jocks in the middle of the woods. If only...

If only The Craft took some risks, it might have actually been good. Instead, we see the girls using "glamour" to change their hair color (and with laughable special efx), removing scars, and casting love spells for half of the runtime. Where is all the revenge stuff? Where is the dark humor? The Craft's all-holds-barred attitude shows that this was marketed towards young girls just entering high school, because an older audience can't possibly get much from this. The R-rating on the film is especially surprising, as there is hardly any violence.
Find the one that doesn't belong.

This isn't to say that there are no good moments in The Craft. There are. Skeet Ulrich's performance under Tunney's love spell had me chuckling. The "light as a feather, stiff as a board" game actually looked good. And after conjuring up a spirit by the ocean, Balk rejoices over the site of several dead sharks washed ashore, which was probably the most effective scene in the whole film.

With another draft of a script and some more attitude, The Craft could have been good. The cast was capable of taking this film up a notch if the story allowed them to. However, the characters have forced motivations and the premise falls apart with unnecessary story twists. Oh well. Better luck next time if this film is ever remade. Ha.


Case 39 (2009): Playing it safe

There’s nothing particularly special about Case 39, but there’s nothing bad about it either. A solid film that just doesn’t do much to stand out from other killer kid movies in the genre. And no, Renée Zellweger is not a standout.

A passionate social worker becomes obsessed with rescuing a child from what appears to be an abusive, psychotic household. Eventually taking custody of the disturbed child, she discovers that the crazy parents may not have been so crazy after all. From the trailers, you can tell it’s a killer kid story, but you don’t know whether or not the child is evil or if something else is manipulating the child. The movie makes it pretty clear—the kid is a demon. And that’s not a spoiler.

The happy family.

It’s a shame though, because I wish there was more suspense surrounding the little girl. Is she a demon? Is she followed by an evil force? Did her religious fanatics for parents do something to her? The movie would have been more fun if the plot was more complex, but then again, sometimes it’s nice to have a straightforward villain in postmodern cinema.

As for the girl, with Lilith of all names, she is genuinely creepy. However, most of this is not due to her performance, but rather some cleverly written and directed moments. You may recognize her from Silent Hill, as she has a great look for horror and was a good casting choice here. Still, she’s no Esther. In fact, The Orphan was probably the reason the theatrical release of Case 39 was postponed. Unfortunately for Case 39, The Orphan had a better cast, a more interesting story, and some great twists.
Duct tape fixes everything.

As a fan of director Christian Alvart, I was pretty disappointed in Case 39. The brooding tone and compelling performances of Antibodies cannot be found in this movie. Nor can the intense cinematography and thoughtful themes of Pandorum.  The visual design was uninteresting (too many overhead shots and high angles) and sloppy editing (unusual for Mark Goldblatt) make Case 39’s average story appear even more average. All the right players were there to make this movie better than its logline, but the result just leads me to believe that Alvart may not do as well in a studio setting.
No one reads her diary.

Like I said, there’s nothing really wrong with the movie and it has some good scenes. Still, the suspense, scares, and story just don’t match up to similar films in the genre. 


Hatchet II (2010): Citizen Kane Hodder

Has anyone else made that joke before? I’m not sure, but I like it. Hatchet II is the Citizen Kane Hodder of slasher sequels. What the heck does that mean? It means the movie is gratuitous, hilarious, ridiculous, and insidious. It’s not every day you get to use all those adjectives in a positive way. But then again, it’s not every day you get to see an unrated horror film in cinemas either.

Hatchet II picks up right where the original left off á la Halloween II. The very first frame of the film? A tight close-up on Victor Crowley’s mangled, gurgling face of course! Next we see Danielle Harris take on the role of Marybeth, as she frees herself from Crowley’s grasp and emerges from the swamp. After rounding up a group of hunters with Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd), Marybeth returns to the swamps to defeat Victor Crowley and avenge her family. While the formula is similar to the original, there are many differences that I appreciated.   
Jamie's uncle is the boogeyman! 

The origin story is more detailed this time, as more supernatural elements are weaved into Crowley’s identity. While this may be a strange route to go with a slasher film, I think it capitalizes on the mythos often found in bayou culture. Plus, we get to see more of Kane Hodder without makeup (playing Crowley’s father again). I was rather impressed with Hodder’s performance and hope this results in more face time in other films. The only downside to the more extensive backstory is the overlap for fans of the original film. The tricky thing about sequels is finding the right balance between recapping information from the first film for new audiences and not boring the crap out of those who have already seen the original. Unfortunately, a little too much time was spent on exposition, causing the first act to feel pretty long.

Speaking of pacing...Much of the pacing problems from the original were improved upon. In the first film, it took too long for the main action to get rolling. Hatchet II gets the cast into danger much quicker (or at least it feels that way) and it was much appreciated. The characters, while not as diverse, are more fun to follow and the character jokes work better. Yes, we all got a little tired of the cat fighting between the airheads in the original. The sequel brings us a colorful collection of rednecks with names like Cleatus and Layton.
The Projects or New Orleans...take your pick.

This film had a lot to live up to in terms of gore. Victor Crowley’s methods of dispatchment are so over-the-top, they are played as comedy. Revolting but funny. Personally, I like the death scenes in the original better, but that doesn’t mean the sequel doesn’t deliver. Intestinal gore, boat propeller to the face, the return of the belt sander, and so much more make Hatchet II the crazy blood bath that it is. In grand sequel tradition, the body count is much grander, including a fantastic montage of deaths at the swamp. Was that a Joe Lynch cameo I saw? Heehee.

Cameos and nods. There are lots of them. Not just in the form of actors either. Adam Green’s directing credit hits the screen next to a shot of the director himself puking the nastiest looking vomit ever. Green inserts lots of little references to his films and others. In Reverend Zombie’ s shop, there’s a little advertisement for the “Jack Chop” with Paul Solet’s smiling face. He’s also watching something on the news about a group of skiers caught in a chairlift. My personal favorite reference is from one of the hunters talking about how he knows of a legend like Victor Crowley in a place called Glen Echo and a man who goes by the name of Leslie Vernon. As a huge fan of Behind the Mask, I was gleeful upon hearing that well-crafted plug.

Crowley mostly comes out at night...mostly.

Through and through, Hatchet II is all about having fun with the horror genre. It’s never making fun of horror; it celebrates the outlandish nature of the genre. Perhaps there are some moments in the beginning when Danielle Harris’ performance is a little too somber and Green is taking the characters a little too seriously, but none of that lasts long before we are treated to mutant-redneck-ghost mutilation.

In the end, Hatchet II is an improved film over Hatchet. The actors, jokes, and structure are better, even if I do prefer some of the deaths from the original. Shot for 2 ½ million dollars without studio support, Hatchet II does a lot with very little. With about zero advertising, it will be difficult for Hatchet II to make money this weekend, which is unfortunate because it deserves a chance to be seen.