The Cryptid Crypt: Willow Creek

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Welcome back to another edition of the Cryptid Crypt! Our last installment was many months ago…apparently i get distracted easily. *Editor Note: The Good Doctor wrote this opening, then spent at least 3 hours fucking around with games on his phone*

I don’t know if you have ever gone to an international film festival, but it is an experience. I saw Willow Creek during the opening night of the Vancouver International Film Fest, and the experience was nearly ruined for me before i even got into the theater. I was not there to take in film after film after film, I was there as a Horror fan…and I was utterly alone. I was surrounded by douche-bags with un-ironic moustaches and gay versions of 1950s haircuts, Vintage clothes, and women who look like they are named Imogen. And scarves. Everyone was wearing fucking scarves! Luckily, I had my flask with me and managed to play a little drinking game. I would eavesdrop on the pretentious fucks surrounding me and drink every time I heard “…was SUCH an under-rated filllm…” Needless to say, I was shitfaced in no time.

Come showtime, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the writer and director of the film, Bobcat Goldthwait himself, was on hand to introduce the feature, give us a few laughs, and humbly thank us for coming out to watch his little movie. A class act! He even stayed to do a Q&A afterwards, and was all around cool as fuck. As far as the film goes, It’s a found footage Bigfoot film. By that description alone, you should now know pretty much what happens in the film. There have been a few nearly identical films (see the last edition of Cryptid Crypt for Lost Coast Tapes, and Bigfoot County). What really peaked my interest with Willow Creek is that it is a very smart approach to a film that is well worn territory. We never see the creature, but are aware of it’s pressence. The scariest moments of the film give us very little visually to work with, but rely on tension and sound, then Bobcat lets us draw our own conclusions. He gives us just enough of a set up toallow us to make up our own mind about what is happening, rather than parading a Sasquatch across the screen and telling us how it is. While it is certainly not the most exciting film I have seen, it was still a perfectly enjoyable film and a MUST-SEE for Sasquatch fans.

Nothing Left to Fear gave us nothing to fear at all.

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Well, I was excited to see this one. I had high hopes that this film based on the legends surrounding Stull, Kansas would deliver the demonic scares or at the very least devilish unease. The Legend is basically that the town is a Gate to Hell. There is a very old cemetery in Stull, that has long been rumored to be a hub of Occult activity. On the grounds stood an old church with no roof, and a giant pine tree which has grown right through a headstone, splitting the stone in two. The church is allegedly a popular home to witches holding black mass, and performing sacrifices. A well hidden stairway behind the church leads down, allegedly to Hell itself. Rumors persist that those who spend the night in the cemetery will experience lost time, flashlight problems, and will hear explainable and terrifying noises, and that visitors to the town are often chased off by locals in pickup trucks. As with any local legend, whether it is true or not is completely irrelevant, because the story has become part of the local culture. 

The film was fine from a technical aspect, it was well shot, well paced, expertly scored(Producer Slash pulled double duty by scoring the film as well), and well acted. Particularly Clancy Brown. But the story just fell flat. The only elements of the legend that were kept were: 1) The town is called Stull, 2) It’s a gateway to Hell. The FX were ok, nothing special, the scares were non-existent…It felt like a slightly more grown up episode of “Are You Afraid of the Dark”. I try not to be negative about the films i review, as i feel there is enough of that out there online as it is, but I just did not enjoy this film. Make no mistake…that is not to say it is a bad film, I just got zero enjoyment from it.

 

Better luck next time Slash!

Insidious will go “Further”

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It’s rare that a sequel feels like a true continuation of the original film. Most of the time they come across as an attempt to surpass the previous tale…or you end up with something completely bizarre and unexpected (Nightmare on Elm Street part 2, Halloween 3). Insidious Chapter 2 is literally the second chapter of the same story. We’ve established the characters, the realm of “The Further”, the tension, and the oddly juxtaposed comic relief of the bumbling Paranormal Investigators Tucker and Specs, and allows us to see the Haunting of the Lambert family draw to its conclusion, while also allowing us to explore “The Further”…well, further.

Insidious (Chapter 1) had a profound impact on me. I didn’t sleep the night i watched it. It’s no secret that ghost stories/demonic chicanery strikes a chord with me, so to see such eerie and effective visuals paired with a dementedly haunting score…Yeah. Scared the shit out of me. A lot of criticism was levied against the film for the shift in direction part way through when it stopped being about a scary haunting and became about an Astral realm, but i didn’t care, i was fully invested at that point. My expectations were extremely high going into Chapter 2. After the first viewing, I was left not quite knowing how i felt about the movie, so last night i saw it for the second time. To be fair, the first viewing was a gong show. On either side of me, a few seats down, were drunken couples hooking up in the theater, and several rows behind me were people starting a scrap over which of them should be quiet first. At one point, the drunken harlot to my left started getting whiny and emotional, loudly speaking to her fella. Being the gentleman that I am, i leaned over and said: “Hey, if you guys are gonna be making that much noise, can you at least go back to fucking so we can get another free show?” Put them in their place. Distractions aside, I guess i was expecting something a bit different from the story. What I got was still frightening though…

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After my second viewing, I can say with confidence that i like this film. I can’t help but get the sense that as James Wan is leaving the franchise, and the Horror genre itself, he wanted to not only tie up loose ends such as the Black Veiled Bride, The Lambert Family’s connection to the Further, and what really happened to Elise Ranier (Lin Shaye), but also leave room for others to continue on with the series. My lone criticism is that at times the dialogue felt awkward and a little exposition heavy, but i attribute this to Wan not wanting to leave the possibility that the audience would “get it”, so he literally spells it out for them. The back story of the Black Veiled Bride has an eerie air of authenticity to it. Elements of the story are familiar enough that we could very easily think it was based on a true case, and i’m not sure that writer Leigh Whannell wasn’t influenced by real life killers. Overall I didn’t find it to be as scary as the original, but it was still an enjoyable film. I see this falling into a similar class as Sinister, as an instant cult classic that will serve its greatest purpose in traumatizing younger children. 

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It has been confirmed that another sequel is in the works, and it seems a given that the continuing arc will follow Elise, Specs, and Tucker as they help other people afflicted by hauntings. Preliminary reports have the film tracking for a $32–$35 million debut in North America. The film earned $1.5 million from its Thursday night showings, and reached a $20 million Friday total, making it the biggest opening day in September box office history. The film debuted at #1 during its opening weekend, taking $41 million at the box office. This means that between The Conjuring and Insidious, James Wan has had two films this year break $40 million during opening weekend. This is even more impressive considering these film were released within a few months of each other. Box office like this ensures that our journeys into the Further…will continue (you thought i was gonna say “Will go further”, didn’t you? I would have had to kick my own ass if i made that reference twice).

 

Oh yeah…and if the tease at the end is any indication…I think we’ll be seeing more of this demon

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Let’s Get Nasty: The Beyond, and A Bay Of Blood

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The Beyond (1981), has done what no other Zombie movie has done before, or since…It inspired real dread in me. Known in Italy as L’aldilà, and re-released after being heavily cut as Seven Doors of Death, this Lucio Fulci masterpiece is the second installment of his Gates Of Hell Trilogy(bookended by City of the Living Dead and House by the Cemetary), and one of his finest works. Rather than face prosecution for obscenity, the UK distributors elected to re-release the film in 1987 after certain scenes were cut. The uncut version was made available again in 2001.

The film opens in Black and White, set in 1927 Louisiana, at the Seven Doors Hotel. We see an angry Lynch mob coming for one of the male lodgers. My first reaction upon seeing this was “Ok, its the South, in the 20’s, he’s white…so they must either think he’s gay, or in league with Satan”. Turns out I was right, They think he’s a Warlock. Apparently the proper way to deal with Warlocks on the Bayou is to beat them mercilessly with a chain, splitting flesh with every strike, then nailing them to a wall in the basement with spikes through their wrists, then dousing them with quicklime(an incredibly caustic chemical compound) and melting them to death. How bout that? Fast Forward several decades, and a Big City Gal named Liza inherits the hotel with plans to re-open it. A fine plan! Probably stimulate the local economy, preserve a local piece of history…thumbs up! Except for one small detail…THE HOTEL IS LOCATED OVER ONE OF THE GATES OF HELL, AND KILLING THE WARLOCK/ARTIST OPENED THE GATE! MWA-HA-HA-HA-HAAAAAA! *cough*

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Before she knows it, she is visited by a Blind Ghost who tries to persuade the inhabitants to leave the house, Zombies and vengeful spirits begin to rise, big fuckin spiders eat peoples faces, a creepy old book plays hide and seek for a few scenes, and the final survivors are transported to a desolate wasteland, presumably Hell. As much as my description makes it sound silly, this film is beautifully crafted and has that distinct Italian style, even using one of my favorite devices of part of the score being played real time within a scene. The plot was originally conceived by Fulci as an exploration of the idea of the realms of living and dead bleeding together. Fulci also wanted to do a film that would pay homage to his idol, the French playwright Antonin Artaud . Artaud, a sometime member of the early 20th Century Surrealist movement, envisioned theatre being less about linear plot and more about “cruel” imagery and symbolism that could shock its audience into action. Given the amount of violence and carnage depicted in the film, I would say he achieved this goal.

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Zombie films and Zombies in general have been done to death today, but there will always be a special place in my heart for older Zombie films, particularly when they aren’t centered on some biological threat, or infectious jackassery. I much prefer MY dead to walk the earth because there’s no more room in hell.

 

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The film so offensive it made Christopher Lee walk out of a screening in disgust, and had it’s best kills aped by Friday the 13th! Most widely known as “Twitch of the Death Nerve”, this film may break the record for most titles. We’ve got Bay of Blood, Bloodbath, Reazione a Catena, The Odor of Flesh, Thus do we live to be evil, Before the Fact, The Ecology of Crime, Chain Reaction, Carnage, Last House On The Left Part II, New House On The Left, and Bloodbath Bay of Death. 13 motherfucking titles! Either Mario Bava is one indecisive motherfucker, or this is another example of the classic scenario we’ve seen of re-titleing a film for international release and for censorship/film rating issues. This 1971 Italian Giallo thriller was quite shocking in the day for it’s gruesome murders, 13 of them in total, which won awards for the use of special makeup effects. Ultimately though, this film was way before it’s time. It’s fantastically shot and crafted murders were off-putting for a large section of the film-going public at the time, but went on the be a huge influence on the slasher genre years later. The plot concerns family members killing each other off in an effort to be the sole heir inheriting a large and presumably valuable property. In grand Giallo style, the camera work hides the killers identity and they almost ALWAYS wear gloves. There is somewhat of a “whodunnit” approach which is eventually abandoned after several twists and turns. All you need to know is that many people die, and the killer could be anyone. Two of the more brilliant kills were lifted verbatim from this film and dropped straight into Friday the 13th part 2, and had a huge role in establishing Jason Vorhees as King Of the Slashers. First up, we dispatch shy Bobby who takes a Machete directly to the face, virtually out of nowhere.

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I say he had it coming. I mean, C’MON! I know it was the early 70s, and in Europe, but look at this dickhead in that sweater, with that stupid fucking haircut. You can’t see it in this pic, but he’s wearing tight khaki pants, and thigh high leather boots as well. Dude was practically begging for someone to Machete him in the face! Next we have a young couple, making the beast with two backs. A great POV shot tracks the killer advancing on them with a spear, and then…

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OH YEEEEEEAH! Take THAT Eurotrash! I like this kill so much that i’m gonna steal it and put it in MY movie too!

All in all, the shock value may not hold up well by today’s standards, but it’s influence cannot be understated. Director Joe Dante had this to say:  “It features enough violence and grue to satisfy the most rabid mayhem fans and benefits from the inimitably stylish direction of horror specialist Mario Bava. Assembled with a striking visual assurance that never ceases to amuse, this is typical Bava material – simply one ghastly murder after another, 13 in all, surrounded by what must be one of the most preposterous and confusing plots ever put on film.”

How can you get better than that?