#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 15

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The works of Takashi Miike are frequently peppered with sadistic torture, extreme gore, and graphic violence. For this reason alone, I feel that this Japanese gangster flick qualifies as a horror film. Miike’s unique ability to shock audiences shines through in this, his most ambitious and wildly beloved cult classic. Ichi premiered to a packed house at a midnight screening during the Toronto International Film Fest, and in a stroke of marketing genius, attendees were handed promotional barf-bags.

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Inspired by the eponymous Ichi The Killer manga, the story follows Kakihara’s search for Boss Anjo, who is believed to be either dead or to have run off with a girl and 3 million yen worth of the Gangs money. Kakihara believes a rival gang is responsible for the disappearance, and carves a bloody swath through the criminal underworld to find Boss Anjo. Then we meet our Hero(?), Ichi. Bullied from a young age, Ichi remains reserved until his inner rage bubbles over, transforming him into a sobbing juggernaut of violent rage. Erupting in a frenzy of flying kicks and bladed heels and leaving a sea of blood and entrails. How these two story paths interweave and collide is for you to see. This Masterwork of violence has to be seen to be believed.

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Everything from the costume design to the swirling camera work paints a stunning picture for the viewer, a strangely beautiful and artistic picture drenched in buckets of gore. Miike’s grue-infused sensibility casts a very big shadow over any future Japanese film makers, and any of his works are well worth the time to check. While a dubbed version exists. I cannot recommend strongly enough to watch the subtitled version. You’ll never look at Tempura the same way again….

#31DaysOfHorror : Oct 14

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1981 was a pretty awesome year for fans of Werewolf films. Both The Howling and An American Werewolf in London saw their release, making use of groundbreaking special effects that still hold up to this day. Both films managed to take old legends and stories, and bring them into the 20th century, and still stand as two of the best werewolf films ever made. In addition to these 2 classics, Wolfen was also released. Based on a novel by Whitley Strieber, the film is not about Werewolves as such, but evokes many of the same fears, while conveying a unique message.

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I’ll try to keep this as spoiler free as possible, because I think EVERYONE should see this film, so please bear with me. The plot follows New York cop Dewey Wilson investigating the suspicious murder of a wealthy land developer. Strange hairs are found at the scene what experts determine are the hairs of a wolf, but not any of the 50 know subspecies. Whomever or whatever is doing the killing seems to have a humans cunning with an animals savagery. Dewey finds himself desperately seeking answers, even considering the possibility of shapeshifters after talking to a group of Native Americans.

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If you’ve ever seen a full grown Timber Wolf angry, you know how terrifying it is. This film delivers some fantastic shots of truly beautiful creatures in ways seldom seen outside of Animal Planet. The film also offers an interesting look at trying to stay connected to the natural world while still within a suffocating concrete metropolis. Wolfen is most certainly NOT a Werewolf film, but still has that familiar feel to it. It examines the relationship between man and beast in a way that Horror films rarely see, while still giving us the tension and dread we so crave.

” In arrogance man knows nothing of what exists. There exists on this earth such as we dare not imagine; life as certain as our death, life that will prey on us as surely as we prey on this earth.”

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 13

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Jason Voorhees is my favorite monster. There, I said it! And y’know what? I’m not the least bit sorry!  I freely acknowledge that several(some would say all) films in the Friday the 13th series are pretty hokey, but I love them anyway. Maybe I can relate to Jason, the shy kid who was picked on for being different only to grow up big and strong and capable of removing heads from bodies. Maybe its that I saw most of the franchise during a particularly awesome summer of my youth and feel a connection to those special times. Realistically, it doesn’t matter to me why…just that I never get tired of these films, and Friday the 13th part 6 is one of my favorites!

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Subtitled “Jason Lives”, this is the film where Jason rises from the grave after being killed by Tommy Jarvis in Part 4.  Part 5 was intended to be the start of a new direction for the franchise, but things just never seemed to work out, so producers decided Jason would live again! I’ll discuss this 3 film arc in greater detail in the much delayed part 2 of Return to Crystal Lake(part 1 found here: http://doctorhavok.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/return-to-crystal-lake-the-legend-of-jason-voorhees-pt-1/ ). This time around, producers embraced the fact that movie-goers had for better or worse, effectively embraced Jason Voorhees as the Machete weilding anti-hero of the franchise. By no means is he performing heroic deeds, he’s still up to his usual brand of slaughter, but now it’s being carried out with more black humor and style. Audiences didn’t want to see teens escape their grisly deaths, they want to see Jason kill them in increasingly violent and inventive ways. Check out the James Bond homage in the title shot. It’s clear who audiences were rooting for.

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This is also the film that debuted the iconic “Zombie-Jason”. An unstoppable, partially decayed corpse, somehow reanimated to cave in your fucking skull with an Axe! The reanimation scene in the cemetery calls to mind elements of classic Gothic films of yesteryear. It doesn’t take a genius to spot the Frankenstein similarities. As with so many films, cuts demanded by the MPAA have greatly cut down on the bloody fun that COULD have been contained in this film, but it’s still a fun ride full of lots of laughs, subtle fourth wall jokes, 80s cliches, and wonderful bloody Murder!

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 12

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“All right Booger-lips, it’s time for Troll Squish-Kebob!”

If you’ve ever seen an Ernest movie, you know the kind of daffy bullshit to expect here. By no means do I consider this a Horror film, or even a GOOD film for that matter. It is however a Nostalgic Halloween staple at the Havok Hideout. My parents gave me a pirated VHS copy (they probably refused to pay money for Ernest, totally understandable) and I watched that thing over and over again, countless times, regardless of the season. I guess I identified with the kids, Kenny and Elizabeth (Fuck Joey! I always hated that little shit! ), two kids who just love Halloween.

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Decades earlier, Trantor the Troll was terrorizing Briarville Missouri. Abducting children to use their souls to resurrect his wicked race, before being stopped by the reverend Phineas Worrell, who manages to stop the Troll and entomb him beneath an oak tree. As he’s being buried, Trantor prophesizes that one day a descendant of Worrell will release him. This is easily the heaviest plot ever found in an Ernest movie, but fear not, we’re jumping forward to idiocy right quick.

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After building a treehouse with Kenny and Elizabeth, Ernest let’s loose the troll to wreak Havoc on Briarville once more. Naturally, it’s up to Ernest and the kids to stop the Troll along with the help of local crazy, Old Lady Hackmore (Eartha Kitt). The plot is very kid-friendly, and Ernest’s antics are bordering on the cartoonish…but goddamn it this movie is fun. I’ll post a link to the full film below, so you too, can take a journey down guilty pleasure road.

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#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 11

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If Tobe Hooper was asked to do a remake of the Breakfast Club, he would have made All The Boys Love Mandy Lane. In actuality the film was directed by Jonathan Levine. This film caught my attention years ago after drumming up major buzz on the festival circuit in 2006. Unfortunately the buzz fizzled out after the U.S. distributor for the film went bankrupt shortly after purchasing them from the Weinstein Company. After 7 years in limbo, the rights were re-acquired by the Weinstein’s, and here we are today. Was it worth a 7 year wait?

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Honestly, there aren’t many films that could be worth that kind of hype or wait. Its not that the film is bad, or that I don’t like it. Its quite the opposite, but somehow I guess I was expecting more. The film centers around *gasp* Mandy Lane(played by Amber Heard), a former misfit who suddenly got hot over the summer, and now all the boys want to fuck her. After being invited to a weekend party by the cool kids, Mandy attends in hopes of expanding her social circle while the boys hope to expand her vaginal cavity. As is the custom with teens partying away from the safety of adult supervision, a killer is stalking them and picks them off, etc, etc…

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Its all pretty predictable, and if you’re like me you’ll see the twist coming a mile away. Where the film really succeeds is its casting and Directing. Each of the teens, even the annoying ones are strangely enduring, especially as the Horror ramps up. There is a certain look to the film that makes me think of Grindhouse Filth polished into a Mainstream shine (Tobe Hooper remaking the Breakfast Club! Watch the film and you’ll see what I mean!) Each archetype was easily identifiable, yet restrained enough to never enter eye-rolling territory. The story never drags on longer than it should, and the violence has the appropriate emotional response. A personal highlight for me is when the Brunette gets the barrel of a shotgun shoved down her throat mere moments after giving her boyfriend head. At the end of the day, I’m not sure what more I was expecting. This is a fun, well made slasher film. All it needs to do is punish teenagers who dare to have a good time.

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 10

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The words “Mindless Cash-In” spring to mind whenever i see this film. The original was a cult classic (Roger Corman has a knack for churning those out), with smart themes of female empowerment meshed into a script that was intended to be a parody of slasher films. When the sequel came about, all intelligence as well as logic was dropped from the project, and instead a Hokey Rock-n-Roll subplot was added. On paper, this idea reeks. In practice…It’s still pretty rotten, but at least it’s entertaining. A low-rent, shapeless, ugly movie that wears stylistic flourishes like a warthog in a bonnet, Slumber Party Massacre II is a Nightmare on Elm Street knockoff that makes up for in sheer weirdness what it lacks in coherence, suspense, and production value. Plus, any movie featuring a candy-assed rockabilly dream-killer with a guitar drill is certainly worth seeing at least once.

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After the events of the first film, Courtney is the only survivor who is still sane. You remember Courtney, the idiotic young attention whore who spent most of the film being a pain in the ass of her hot older sister Valerie, or whacking off to Sylvester Stallone. Now played by Crystal Bernard, Courtney takes center-stage as a VOCID (Victim of Crime Involving Drills) teen just trying to meet boys, get tan, and play in her girl-rock band. Pretty basic, right? Well, not for long: it seems that Courtney is plagued by memories of the massacre that are interrupting her beauty sleep and generally putting her on edge. Well, that’s not entirely true – as she wasn’t actually present for most of the murders in the first film (she hangs out at home wanking to Playgirl for most of the movie), she’s technically plagued by memories of the first movie, which she likely watched half-heartedly in preparation for this role. So we see her having flashbacks to things she never saw in the first place, mixed in with images of a leering loony (Atanas Ilich) in some sort of smoke-machined netherworld (cue Nightmare on Elm Street references). Her well-meaning but wet-blanket mother  is simultaneously smothering and completely emotionally inaccessible (cue more NOES references), doing little to improve the situation. But Courtney does glean some genuine satisfaction from playing in a wretched rock band with her friends Sally (Heidi Kozak of Friday the 13th pt 7, as the ditz), Sheila (Juliette Cummins Friday 5, as the rich sex-fiend) and Amy (Kimberly McArthur, Playboy’s Miss January, 1982, as… the good girl, oddly). The chicks like to hang out in the garage, drink Slice, and play their horrible brand of pop-drivel for guys who only praise the display in hopes of getting laid. . When Sheila’s dad buys a new condo on a golf course (in theory – it looks like the middle of the desert to me), the girls plan a secret slumber party in the empty place so they can cut loose and rehearse. As you can no doubt guess, shit doesn’t go as planned. Courtney is plagued by visions and waking nightmares of the stupidest killer ever depicted in a slasher film, somehow swapping out the creepy Russ Thorn for a singing, dancing, satanic drill guitar playing asshat. The idiocy is further exacerbated by the arrival of the truly idiotic (in a “why are you alive” kind of way) boyfriends.   

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Its never made clear what the actual fuck is happening, whether this is all Courtneys dream or if its all a psychotic hallucination. If I’m being honest i don’t really think either scenario would make the film better or worse. I feel like we’ve kinda already gone past the point of no return with that one. If i were to try and list the redeeming qualities of this film, Im pretty sure I’d forget what I was doing, watch another movie and probly have a better time. The only reason to watch this film is if you are a glutton for punishment, like 80s sleaze and cheese fests, and don’t take ANYTHING seriously…so I figure about 50% of my readers.

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 9

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Urban legends are powerful things. Everyone grew up with stories of places we couldn’t go, or things we couldn’t do or else something would get us. I vividly recall a certain garage just past the boundaries of my elementary schools play-yard, and we were CONVINCED that something evil lived inside. We would invent stories about whatever it might be, and of course tell tall tales of when we were brave enough to venture inside (always alone, so there was no way to validate our bullshit bravado). And wouldn’t you know it? We were convinced that Candyman lived inside.

Candyman was released in 1992, when my peers and I were about the age of 7. I know I wasn’t allowed to watch the film til years later, but somehow the story of a man in a long coat with a hook for a hand who would appear in the mirror if you called his name 5 times, found its way to us and became an Urban Legend. Ironic in that the film itself deals with stories being passed on and growing into legend. When I did finally get to see this film I was about 10 years old and it scared the fucking shit out of me! I can’t watch it today without getting chills. http://youtu.be/3uNPW7d5mhw

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The plot concerns Graduate student Helen Lyle working on her thesis on Urban Legends. In her studies she learns of the Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago, which seems gripped by fear over the local legend of Candyman. As she begins to delve deep into a world of poverty, gentrification and fear, Helen learns that stories can be more powerful and real than she’d ever imagined. Originally from a story by Clive Barker entitled The Forbidden, Candyman definetly has a familiar Barker feeling to it. Candyman sets his sights on Helen because she encourages residents of Cabrini-Green to stop believing in him. Candyman is nothing without his story. He needs to kill her to revive the residents belief in him, thereby ensuring immortality for himself through the retelling of his deeds. In essence, the film is a story about a story that is determined to keep being a story that people tell.

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So many things about this film are perfectly done. Any scene depicting the bleak gentrification of Cabrini-Green gives the impression of hopelessness and lawlessness. You really believe that within those walls you will never be safe. Safe from the violence and decay that plague the area, or safe from the ripping and tearing of Candyman’s hook. Much credit goes to actor Tony Todd as well. His creepy voice and commanding presence gives life to the Candyman. No matter what role I see him portray, he will always be Candyman to me. How appropriate that the impact of the film would so closely mimick the story itself, scaring me and countless others enough that we keep the legend alive.

Are you brave enough to look in the mirror and say “Candyman” five times? Your answer might be different after watching this film.