#31DaysOfHorror: Oct23

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I must confess, after watching the original, I waited until after the stroke of midnight to watch the 1990 remake, Directed by FX legend Tom Savini. Part of the reason was that I was truly feeling bored after viewing the original, and also because I feel the remake is the superior film. Now before all you Zom-aniacs get your corpse paint in a bunch and shamble over here to moan your displeasure, chill the fuck out and read to the end of this entry.

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The story is largely the same as the original. Barbara and her brother Johnny make a long drive from…somewhere…to lay flowers on the grave of a deceased parent(this time their Mother), Johnny is killed in the graveyard by reanimated corpse, and Barbara is chased into the woods, finding refuge in a house. The weak-willed and prone to hysterics Barbara finds more reanimated dead are coming for her, but just as she’s about to give up, reinforcements arrive as Ben, a tough black man arrives seeking gas for his truck, or shelter. Later the two discover more people hiding in the cellar, and tensions rise as the group battles to overcome their own fears while realizing that as they fight to keep the monsters out, the real monsters might be themselves.

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Savini knew that the story wasn’t broke and didn’t need fixing, yet still added depth to all characters, particularly Cooper, Ben and Barbara. Cooper is portrayed with largely the same qualities, but he seems to be meaner, nastier, and a bit of a drunk in this version. Ben is portrayed by Tony Todd, who not only brings his amazing voice to the role but adds a soul to Ben not seen before. Todd’s Ben would never hit Barbara if she got hysterical, but instead helps her come back to reality and fight for her survival. Even his confrontations with Cooper seem to have just a little bit extra venom dripping from them. The biggest change is in Barbara.

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In the original, Barbara served no purpose other than being the pretty woman in peril who screamed a lot. She contributed nothing but hysterics and pretty much got in the way all the time. Patricia Tallman starts the film off as a useless ball of hysterics just like the original. After facing the legions of the Undead with the help of Ben, she begins to find her strength and a determination to live through the chaos. This strength goes one step further as her transformation from Milquetoast to badass is complete in the 3rd act. She ditches her feminine attire for functional garb, arms herself and gains a killer instinct. Its for these reasons I feel this is the better version. The characters are far more engaging, the cinematography is better, the action seems to flow better, and since the Director is a FX legend, you know the Zombies are going to look sick!

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#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 22

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Very few films transcend the Horror genre and even fewer kickstart a Global Phenomenon. Night Of the Living Dead was groundbreaking in it’s time and forever changed the landscape of fright films. Look no further than the success of properties like Resident Evil, Shaun Of The Dead, the Walking Dead, and Zombiewalk to see that The Living Dead are here to stay.

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In plan on doing a very in depth review of NOTLD in the future, so I won’t get too deep into things just yet. Just know that a commentary on the themes of civil unrest, racial tension, and subversion will be made. I’ll also examine the lineage of NOTLD, its various sequels and spin offs, both official and unofficial. Trust me, it gets convoluted!

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On this fine evening, I saw NOTLD presented by the Gentleman Hecklers. This is a local collection of 3 comedians who screen films, then sit in the front row with live microphones and talk shit about the film while it’s playing. Sort of a live version of Mystery Science Theater 3000, if you will. Something occurred to me that hadn’t during any other viewing of the film. It’s really boring at times! Don’t get me wrong, I still love the film, but having the Hecklers point out how much of the running time is taken up by absolutely nothing happening was somewhat of a revelation. How often do we, as devout Horror fans excuse “Nothing Happening” for a slow burn or atmosphere? I’m gonna say it goes both ways, it really just depends on how you view it. If you are by yourself or with other Horror Fans, lack of action can easily be nailed down to slow-burn psychological terror…but if you’re with your buddies and in the mood for a good time, then it won’t be long before someone yells “Boooooring! Let’s drink til Barbara gets naked!”

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 21

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Chillerama – OFFICIAL TRAILER: http://youtu.be/pGUCX53u90I

Ah Chillerama…the Bible of Bad Taste! Here we have another film that I’ve reviewed before. As was the case with Pieces, this is another film I watch seemingly constantly. The biggest difference is that Chillerama fully intends to be cheesy as fuck.

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Adam Rifkin and Tim Sullivan originally intended this project to be an anthology piece called Famous Monsters Of Filmland, based off the magazine of the same name. After shelving the project, the duo met Adam Green and Joe Lynch. Finding that the four shared a love of Horror, the project was revived as Chillerama. Lynch helmed Zom-B-Movie, while Rifkin directed Wadzilla, Sullivan directed I Was A Teenage WereBear, and Adam Green directed The Diary Of Anne Frankenstein. For those of you who haven’t seen the film, these titles alone should tell you that this is required viewing. No spoilers! (My previous review of Chillerama is pretty spoiler heavy)

Do yourself a favor, go find this movie, grab a 6-pack and watch it with friends. True, there may not be a single fright to be found within this film, but it is a cinematic experience lovingly crafted by some wonderfully inventive directors who undoubtedly have a special place in their hearts for our favorite genre.

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 20

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I reviewed Pieces last year, and I’ve likely watched it at least 8 times in between then and now. Any film with the balls to carry a tagline like “You don’t have to go to Texas for a Chainsaw Massacre” deserves to be viewed as often as possible.

It could easily be said that Pieces is a train wreck of deficient characters spewing brainless dialogue in a wretched execution of filmmaking chock full of horrendous acting, atrocious dubbing, arbitrary situations, excessive nudity, and sexual overtones topped off with gratuitous bloodshed with the most painfully obvious red herring in film history…and you’d be totally right! That’s the charm of this prime piece of Grindhouse shit, it’s horrible in almost every way you can measure but thats what makes it so goddamn fun!

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Young Timmy is painstakingly assembling a puzzle showing a naked lady, before his Man-hating domineering Mother puts a stop to this while cursing he and his Father before him for being dirty little penis monsters or something. Timmy reacts how any kid would and hacks his Mom up with an Axe, then finishes his puzzle, hides in the closet, and blames the murder on…some guy…it’s seriously the flimsiest of alibis. Fast forward 40 years, and we are introduced to a mysterious figure clad in black and dismembering co-eds with a chainsaw. Timmy seems to be all grown up and back to his murderous ways…but who is “Timmy” now?

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What follows next is a string of awkwardly dubbed, clumsily acted and hilariously written scenes depicting idiotic police work allowing the campus Casanova to assist the investigation by teaming him up with a famous female tennis player who also happens to be a police officer, an inhumanly strong groundskeeper, and the most random Asian stereotype in history. I could try to describe more of the plot, but since it’s all nonsensical… Why bother? Whether it was intentional or freak happenstance, Pieces reminds us that sometimes being entertained by erratic fun is all you need, just as “The most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and fucking on a waterbed at the same time”.

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 19

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The stink of Van Helsing pretty much put the kibosh on Universals plan to reboot their classic monsters. Dracula films always seem to pop up every few years, and most are hunks of shit. It should be fairly obvious to my regular readers that I fucking love Werewolves, and am predisposed to liking their films despite what can sometimes be glaring flaws, so hearing that Universal was releasing a dedicated reboot of the Wolfman, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

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What we got was a somber, moody, dare I say Gothic interpretation that draws from greater influences than just its original source material. The story is largely the same, Lawrence Talbot becomes cursed after a cruel run-in with fate. He will become a savage beast with the rising of the full moon…and just as before, the Gypsies know EXACTLY what is happening to him and do nothing to stop it, just spew exposition. That part always bugged me.

Drawing influences from Jack the Ripper, The Hound of The Baskervilles as well as Werewolf of London, the film feels like a completely new experience while maintaining an iconic familiarity as well. Hugo Weaving is perfectly suited in his role of Inspector Aberline, and Anthony Hopkins, though restrained, is amazing as Sir John Talbot. His muted and sometimes lifeless portrayal fits that of an aging man who has been afflicted from Lycanthropy for years, has had it take his loved ones from him, and who now only lives for when the Moon is full. As much as I usually love Benicio del Toro, I found his portrayal of Lawrence Talbot to be odd. The Lawrence from this version has been in an asylum from a young age, and has spent much of his adult life as an acclaimed actor. It’s established from early on that Lawrence has a troubled relationship with his father, stemming from the night his Mother died. Any interaction between the two as adults is tense, cold and usually slows the pace of the film right down. Ultimately, I think it works though. The eerie setting of Talbot hall provides a creepy backdrop for these damaged characters to explore the tragedy of their lives. One criticism is that nobody really has big reactions to anything, but it kind of makes sense. Sir John is distant and aloof and has been ever since the death of his wife. “Look into my eyes Lawrence. You’ll see that I’m quite dead”. For Lawrence, the death of his brother basically sits on the surface, “I’ve missed his whole life”, and discovering that both he and his father are Werewolves feels to him like he is relapsing to his “delusions” as a child. He knows them to be true, because the insane don’t know they are insane, yet the insanity is real…making him  sane after all. Maybe I’m reading too much into it and it’s just shitty acting/writing. OK, enough bullshit…WHAT DOES THE FUCKING WEREWOLF LOOK LIKE?!?

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I like the design, it feels like an updated/more fleshed out version of the iconic Lon Chaney Jr. version. Making good use of both practical and CG effects, and the creature runs both upright, as well as on all fours. FX legend Rick Baker lent his mastery to the project, although I was disappointed the transformation scene was CGI, instead of letting Baker dazzle us with another groundbreaking scene. Is the film perfect? Fuck no. But it hits all the needed requirements for an excellent fright Flick. Now if they would just make good on the tease of a sequel starring Hugo Weaving, I’ll be happy.

I’ll leave you with words from The Man himself, Sir Anthony Hopkins.  http://youtu.be/z98S-o2Oy2E

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 18

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And so, we come to the third and final film in the Gates of Hell Trilogy, and as is becoming a trend with the films I review, I fucking hate the small child in this film! I can’t decide if I hate his face, his horribly dubbed voice, or his horrible portrayal/dialogue the most. Don’t get me wrong…I normally like kids. But stupid children in Horror films just really seem to piss me off lately. Every time this little shit said or did anything, I found myself yelling at the screen. “Shut the fuck up Bob! With your stupid little haircut and your dumb face!” , or “Fuck you Bob! Making those stupid truck driving noises with your mouth! You’re not cool, you little asshole!” Seriously. Fuck that little blonde haired git.

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Now then, I suppose I should talk about the film a little bit, huh? Lucio Fulci is in fine form once again, crafting a film that is more accessible than The Beyond, but still rife with chilling atmosphere. And of course, the gore we’ve come to expect is still there as well, however this outing felt a bit more restrained and effectively used…Except for the bat-killing thing. That took way too long and used so damn much blood that it became hilarious.

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The plot concerns the Boyle family, Paul and Lucy with young son Bob (FUCK YOU BOB!!!!!!), who move to Massachusetts so Paul can complete the work of a deceased professor who met a somewhat shady end. The move into Oak Mansion, the last home of the late professor, though the locals know it as “the Freudstein place”. Strange occurrences and ominous presences about as it becomes more clear that something sinister took place within these walls…and may still lurk within. That’s it! No spoilers! This is another must-see film directed by a Master of Horror!

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As with the two previous films in the trilogy, the atmosphere is creepy as hell and has a surreal, dreamlike quality. There are a few plot-holes, but nothing so large as to derail the film. One of the best scenes of the film should reinforce a fear of basements for any child who dares to watch the film…but it also depicts Bob in mortal danger and scared out of his mind. Naturally, its my favorite part. No Halloween Horror marathon should do without the Gates Of Hell Trilogy!

#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 17

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After the last film, I felt completing the Gates Of Hell trilogy would be just the thing to get me back on track. I’ve already reviewed the film in my Let’s Get NASTY series ( http://wp.me/p3tjV6-mt ), so I won’t go back over old territory. I will however reiterate that this film still fills me with dread. There is something unearthly about the atmosphere and tone, something almost dream-like.

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And of course, being a film by Lucio Fulci, it is dripping with Gore. Originally Fulci intended to make a non-linear haunted house story with the only solid plot element being that of a woman moving into a hotel that was built atop one of the Seven Gates Of Hell. This story focused on the dead leaving Hell and entering the Hotel, with little outside of the ensuing carnage to link the scenes together. Zombies were still popular in Europe and interest in Haunted House films was non existent, so Producers and Distributors persuaded Fulci to give them something more like his other Zombie films. Revisions were made to the final product such as adding Zombies, and completely changing the final act to include the Hospital shoot-out. What we’re left with is a fantastic film that I consider one of Fulci’s best. Full of dread, gore, shocks, and a rare dream-like incoherence.

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#31DaysOfHorror: Oct 16

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Right, so this film is terrible. I think we can all agree on that. The only reason I watched it again is I saw this as a HUGE wasted opportunity for Universal pictures. Originally intended to be a sort of reboot of the classic Universal Monsters line-up for contemporary audiences, the release also coincided with DVD reissues of the original films as well.

We meet the infamous Van Helsing, an enigmatic Monster Hunter in the employ of the Catholic Church. Van Helsing is played well enough by Hugh Jackman, but anything he may have done well is overshadowed by the seemingly endless piles of shit littering the film.

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The creature designs for the Vampires and Werewolves look decent enough, but they fall apart once rendered in this films flagrantly over-used CGI. They are left looking like something out of a particularly cool looking cartoon. Post-Interview with a Vampire, pre-Twilight, Vampires were still pretty popular and had not worn out their welcome yet. Still, somehow Van Helsing manages to give us some of the most insufferable Vampires ever depicted. OK, its kinda cool that when they Vamp out they turn into a kind of Demonic Bat Human hybrid…but was it really necessary to depict the Vamps cloaks/dresses morphing into their wings? What happens if they are naked? Do they still get wings? Fuck sakes… I can’t remember who played Dracula, nor do I care to look it up… It felt like the dude was trying very hard to imitate Bela Lugosi, and as you can imagine, he fails. Dracula is one of the most famous characters of all time, if you are going to portray this character effectively, you need to bring something special to the role. Also, one of the Brides is far too tan, Ginger, and big-titted for me to ever buy that she was once a Romanian villager.

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Yup…that’s how they’ve decided Frankensteins monster looks now. It’s like Frankie just decided to stitch on extra muscles when assembling him. The one thing about this abomination of an abomination that I enjoyed is the idea of the Monster being a tragic, misunderstood, and sympathetic character…even if he was overly articulate. Its not all bad though. The visuals in the film as stunning. Everything from the set design to character design(apart from the silly looking Frankenstein) looks fantastic. I’ve already mentioned Jackman doing a good job, but Kate Beckinsale deserves praise here too, although if she hasn’t already planned on fighting Vampires and Werewolves while wearing a Corset, I really have no idea what else she would do with her time. My favorite character was sadly killed off early on. The Creepy Undertaker.

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He had a presence about him that made me want to know what that creepy lil fuck was up to. He distrusts outsiders, Morbidly goes about measuring them for caskets during conversations, and even tries to kill Van Helsing, simply stating “It’s my nature”. I would have enjoyed the film far more if he were tagging along with the hero’s the whole time, working towards the same goal of killing Dracula, but still taking any opportunity to cause trouble and sew dissent.

If you have no particular affinity for the classic Universal Monsters, or aren’t much of a fan of Horror films, then this film actually works fairly well as an action/fantasy film. Its got all the right ingredients to succeed with mainstream audiences, except for heart. As we’ll discuss in later entries, the re-boot train has not stopped rolling, but does appear to be riding much more smoothly. Ultimately, Van Helsing was ambitious, and had some great ideas…but I think it stands as an example of what NOT to do.

#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.”