Silent Night, Fucked Up Night

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Dokken Roadies and Brain Domes. Jesus Harold Christ on fucking rubber crutch, I actually sat through this film!

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So, the film opens with Ricky somehow surviving the last film, only now he is played by Horror Heavyweight Bill Mosely…and is now sporting a transparent Braindome on his head, complete with sloshing fluid and flashing lights. This is all part of an experiment by an ambitious Doctor who wants to use a blind clairvoyant to telepathically connect with the comatose Ricky. I can’t remember if they explained exactly WHY he wants to do this, because I was to preoccupied with the sloosh-slooshing of that wonderful Braindome! Lookit that thing!

So the blind girl, Laura is traumatized after a particularly gnarly session of mind-dipping with Ricky. It really felt like they were trying to do a Nightmare on Elm Street rip off with the dream sequences, but it falls flat on its face just like their attempts at making a viable followup to Silent Night Deadly Night. So yeah, blind chick leaves for a trip up to Grammas house for Christmas along with her brother and his girlfriend…and I’ll get back to those clowns in a minute. And because the flimsy plot would be even more flimsy otherwise, Laura and Ricky now seem to have a psychic link.

After a drunken perverted Santa enters Ricky’s room and begins taunting him, Ricky conveniently wakes from his coma, kills the Santa, some twat who works at the front desk, then hitchhikes out to Grammas house for some yuletide slaughter.

The film is unremarkable in every way except for “so bad it’s good” fun, and this is exemplified perfectly by the brother, Chris and his girlfriend Jerri. Chris looks like a Dokken roadie with his long curly hair, jeans and denim jacket and impossibly hairy chest.

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Jerri is just a snotty bitch who delivers every line and action as if she was first told about it 15 seconds before cameras rolled.

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This is far from a good movie, in fact it goes a long way towards making part 2 a better movie. Had I not watched this with 2 close friends, I likely would have hated it. Shout out to Jen and Tom Pavlovic! As strange as it sounds, the sequels get weirder and weirder from here. Part 4 involves a lesbian brainwashing cult and body-horror elements, and part 5 has a psychosexual Pinocchio story that has Mickey Rooney donning the sinister Santa’s garb! This series is fucked…then again, so is my family…and that means I have to put up with it every Christmas and will likely use a LOT of alcohol to get through it.

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Ba-Ba-Dook-DOOK-DOOOOK!!!

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I had been aware of The Babadook for some time, and while I was eager to see it, it wasn’t until I heard the glowing endorsement of William Friedkin(Director of The Exorcist) proclaiming it to be the scariest movie he’d ever seen. Let that thought digest for a few minutes…for the director of what is considered to be one of the scariest films in history to be heaping such praise on this film is all the endorsement I needed. I had to see it ASAP. Fair warning, SPOILERS AHEAD!

The very first thing I noticed while watching the film is that I wanted to kill the child. Regular readers will know of my irrational hatred of children in horror films, and how they seem to only exist to piss me off and rarely die. This trend will not be ending anytime soon. We meet Amelia, a single mother who lost her husband in a car crash while on the way to the hospital to deliver their son, Samuel. Now she of course loves her son very much, but cannot help but resent him. The kid also seems to have a touch of Aspergers…actually that’s not fair. I have no idea what Aspergers is, and it’s unfair to throw that out there. The kid acts like an annoying little fuck, pitching fits, clinging to his mother, acting like a supremely annoying shit. Once you see this movie, I’m confident you will want to kill the kid within the first 15mins.
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One night, Sam asks his mother to read from a mysterious¬†pop-up book¬†he found on his shelf. The story, titled “Mister Babadook”, is about a supernatural creature that, once someone is made aware of its existence, torments that person indefinitely. Amelia is disturbed by the book’s contents, while a traumatized Sam becomes convinced that the Babadook is stalking them in their home. Amelia begins to notice strange phenomena in their home, and Sam’s behavior worsens. He is expelled from school for his behavior and pushes his cousin out of a treehouse for not believing in the Babadook and taunting him for not having a father. This causes Amelia’s sister Claire to admit she can’t stand to be around Sam and suspects Amelia feels the same.
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Here is where we find the most crucial part of the film. Is it really about a supernatural Bogeyman who torments a mother and son? Or is The Babadook an allegory for the madness that overtakes a resentful mother who is at her wits end. The more taxing her sons behavior gets, the stronger the Babadook gets.

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For a first time director to come completely out of left field and lay a film this creepy on us is truly something remarkable. On the surface, the idea of Mr. Babadook creeping into your home, hiding in the shadows, creeping around in his long black coat and stove pipe hat, scuttling about in a vaguely insectile fashion is pretty unnerving. Amelia is shown watching Silent Expressionist films which directly influences the look of Mr. Babadook, he comes across as something both familiar and alien, like something horrible playing at being human.
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Essie Davis practically carries the film as Amelia. At no point during the film did it become obvious that I was watching a thespian at her craft, her portrayal of this tragically distressed woman was incredibly believable and allowed me to really empathize with the plight of her character. Is she likeable at all times? Fuck no! But that is what makes the performance all the more powerful.The idea of a mother being pushed to the point where she unravels and becomes a danger to herself and her child is not a new concept, but the story is told as if we are watching a nightmare unfold and being unable to escape.
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For anyone who watches horror films all year long, a film like the Babadook comes along maybe once, or twice a year if we are lucky. Is it the scariest movie of all time? I think that might be a bit of a stretch, but it is certainly VERY scary. There is an awful lot of hype, maybe too much to ever live up to. This is going to end up being a very important film, and not just because it will surely be responsible for countless nightmares (I plan on showing this to as many children as I can). The Babadook will undoubtedly cast more attention on Australian horror cinema and woman filmmakers as well. The fact that a film like this was written and directed by a woman should come as no surprise. Only a woman could so accurately tell a tale with such an underlying message of postpartum depression and single motherhood. Kent does a fantastic job of allowing us a true to life glimpse into a truly frightening world that most of us will hopefully never know. As much as I joke about my hatred of small children in horror films, this film was no joke. I, like the mother, badly wanted to murder this small child. It’s unwise to try and deny the monster that lives within us. We each have it, it’s just a question of whether we let him do his work, or keep him chained up in the basement. If it’s in a word or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook…

Black No.1

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Hammer films has a rich legacy of making Gothic Horror masterpieces. While prolific in the 50s -70s, their output almost totally dried up and the studio lay dormant until the early 2000s. I’d love to go on more about Hammer Horror Films, but I’m saving most of that material for a separate post. The Woman in Black is a damn fine return to form for the iconic studio. With a sequel looming on the horizon, I felt this was a good time to take another look at this retelling of a contemporary British classic.

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Originally a 1983 Novella, and then a 1989 Telefilm, The Woman In Black is probably best known for its 1987 stage play which went on to be the second longest running play in the West End of London. By the time the 2012 film came around, the story was pretty well worn territory…for Brits anyway. Director James Watkins manages to craft a film that plays up the Gothic traditions of Hammer as well as play to the sensibilities of a modern audience. Casting Harry Potter as your lead definitely helps with that as well.
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Yup, that’s right. Daniel Radcliffe turns in a dramatic performance not long removed from his days of saving Hogwarts. He plays Arthur Kripps, a widowed lawyer who is sent to help close out an estate called Eel Marsh House. Eel Marsh is surrounded by marshes and is only accessible by a narrow causeway which disappears when the tide is high. It is within these shadow filled corridors that Arthur begins his encounters with The Woman in Black, and learns of the haunting legacy she has visited on the nearby village. No spoilers, go watch the goddamn movie.
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Where the film really shines is its use of atmosphere and setting. Stolen glances of the spectral woman from deep within the shadows of the lonely house. The isolation, oppressive fog, the festering marsh land. These elements work wonders towards establishing a bleak, hopeless atmosphere. The colors are muted, the score is haunting, and the shadows are everywhere. Each role is perfectly cast, the villagers genuinely looking terrified and superstitious, while Radcliffe looks like a man struggling to maintain his grip.
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Then of course there were these creepy wind up toys. Seriously. Who the fuck would think these would be a good toy to give a child? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good creepy clown as much as anyone, but even I think that lil wind-up clown is too fucking creepy. No wonder turn of the Century England produced such twisted folks that Jack The Ripper was able to blend in so well.

…And I say, “Welcome To The Show!”

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I grew up the son of a Librarian, and as such have a great appreciation for the printed word. Growing up, I knew all about the work of Stephen King, as my Mother seemed to have a nearly endless supply of his works. It seemed only natural that as i was teaching myself to read with my Conan The Barbarian, and Wolverine comics, that I would gravitate towards the one lone comic book in my Mother’s collection:

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Fuck yeah! Easily one of the coolest comic books to ever corrupt a young mind! I poured over each page with fascination and wonder. This was nothing like the safe, sanitized monsters I had seen in cartoons. This was more like the stolen viewings I received of the Horror films my parents watched after sending me to bed. I would sneak out of my room, and do my best to watch the movie in secret, hiding behind the corner, one eye peeping out, trying to remain quiet. Here was the real thing within my grasp! I have a hard time remembering what some of my earliest influences towards Horror were, but this Comic will always stand out to me as a pivotal influence.

It wasn’t until years later that I finally saw the original film, infact I thought the film was based on the Comic. Upon watching it, I was amazed at what a faithful adaptation the comic was, and blown away at how expertly the film captures that atmosphere and feel of the 1950s comics. The score, and lighting cues are fantastically done, and each segment, while short, is an effective piece of chilling film making by George A Romero.

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With Romero at the helm, it should come as no surprise that there are two segments involving the dead rising. Something to Tide You Over is a perfectly acted piece showing a rare villainous performance from Leslie Nielson. The other is entitled “Fathers Day”, and has one of the coolest instances of a rotting corpse rising from the grave ever committed to film. Tom Savini is in fine form crafting some stellar gore and creature effects that even hold up by todays standards. As always, Stephen King just had to inject himself into this film, and turns in an utterly Derp-tastic performance in The Lonesome Tale Of Jordy Varell. Even as a kid, I thought this story was stupid. It didn’t scare me, or even creep me out, it just seemed like a situation that would suck to be in. King’s horrible acting doesn’t help the situation either. Another segment that always felt flat to me was They’re Creeping Up On You. If bugs creep you out, then this will make you shit, but aside from that, it always felt like filler, whether it be in the film or Comic.

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The real star of the show is The Crate. Holy Fucking shit, this story got to me as a kid! To this very day, I can’t see a wooden crate without imagining some kind of Carnivorous Primate from the Himalayans waiting inside to bite my fucking face off! Fortunately, there aren’t many wooden crates to be seen in my life anymore. Both the comic and the film are simply, Anthology Horror done right. It’s obvious the EC comics were a huge influence, but likely the 70’s Tales From The Crypt, and Vault Of Horror films as well. Curiously, this film would go on to be a huge influence on the Tales From The Crypt TV series, as well as Tales From The Darkside. Creepshow 2 is again based off of stories by Stephen King, this time only featuring 3 segments and a somewhat more detailed frame story, and unfortunately coming off as quite laughably dull. Creepshow III is a clusterfuck of a film that has no connection to the previous two aside from its name. Rather than take the same framing device for the stories, a Pulp Fiction-esque approach is taken.

All in all, I thought Creepshow was a fantastic project. Romero and King make a surprisingly good team, and adding Bernie Wrightson to illustrate the comic was a perfect touch. The film presents a tone and sensibility rarely found in Horror anymore. All too often I find that horror films either take themselves too seriously in trying to deliver frights, or they are too focused on being fun. Creepshow is a great example that genuine frights don’t have to come at the expense of fun. My only gripe is I wanted the Creep to take a more prominent role in the film, more like The Crypt Keeper he is modeled from. All in all, Creepshow is an awesome horror film, with a rich legacy and influence that is still being felt to this day.