#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 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.

The Legend of Victor Crowley

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When a film gives itself the Tagline: “Old School American Horror”, one would think it left zero room for fucking around. Yet the Hatchet franchise is one giant-3-film-fuckaround. But it’s a fuckaround done RIGHT! The Slasher genre had its glory days, then went out of style only to come back into vogue years later, but something had changed. Modern Slashers seem focused on delivering a visceral experience and less on being a fun movie. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy modern slashers…I mean, who couldn’t love the pulse pounding “I know what you did…” series? Ok , bad example, Wrong Turn , Behind the Mask, and the various remakes and re-imaginings of the 80s classics have all been good, but when i watch them, i can’t help but feel they lack the spirit of old. I get the feeling that Adam Green felt the same way.

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Adam Green is the Mastermind behind the Hatchet franchise, serving as creator, writer, director, producer and bit-part actor, I think it can safely be said that Hatchet is HIS baby. The story arc follows the legend of Victor Crowley, a vengeful spirit haunting the Louisiana swamp that was once his home, but is now his killing field! Over the course of the 3 films, we learn about the legend, how Crowley came to be cursed, and the eventual resolution of the curse, and along the way we are treated to near countless inside jokes for genre fans, wildly over the top and inventive kills, as well as appearances by some icons of horror cinema.

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Hatchet (part 1) opens with a pair of Gator hunters, Sampson Dunston (Played by Horror legend Robert Englund), and his son Ainsley, out on the Bayou late at night trying to bag a catch. In short order they are set upon by Victor Crowley (Played by Kane Hodder of Friday the 13th fame, who also plays Victor’s Father Thomas in a flashback, a rare unmasked role for Hodder), who dispatches them in over-the-top, bloody fashion, setting the tone and standard for the franchise. Our Narrative next cuts to Mardi Gras where we meet Ben (Joel David Moore, quite possibly the best “lovable loser” in film history) and Marcus (Dion Richmond, who clearly tries too hard in this role)(Adam Green makes a cameo as their drunk friend), two friends who at Ben’s insistence, and despite Marcus’s objections, seek out a Haunted Swamp Tour, and seek out Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd, of Candyman, and Night of the Living Dead (1990) fame). The Rev informs them he can’t do tours anymore after being sued for negligence, but instead refers them to a shop down the street, where the duo meet Shawn (Perry Shen), an Asian sheister with a fucked up fake Creole accent, as well as Shapiro, a sleazy porn producer(ooooooor IS he?) and two prerequisite disposable sluts. Misty is a dumb blonde, while Jenna is an “Actress” who seems to think that filming “Bayou Beavers” will be a stepping stone to a real career…uuuuuh-huh. They also meet an older couple, Shannon and Jim Permatteo (Jim played by Richard Riehle, Fuck yeah! Diabetus Walrus!) and the intense and aloof Marybeth (played by Shannon Feldman). As the tour goes on we briefly meet a Piss-drinking Gator hunter named Jack Cracker(played by FX guru John Carl Buechler) who warns the group not to enter the swamp. Ignoring Jack’s warning and carrying on the tour, we learn the legend of Victor Crowley, that of a deformed boy who was accidentally killed by his father via a hatchet strike to his face, and ever since then, he haunts the swamps and can be heard calling ominously for his Daddy. After running aground and being forced to abandon their boat, the group is alerted to the danger they are in by Marybeth, a local resident who is searching for her Father, Sampson and brother Ainsley. One by one, the group are picked off by ole Hatchet-Face himself, Victor Crowley in several inventive and hilariously awesome ways, such as a Belt-Sander to the face, ripping the head apart via the jaw, Decapitation with a shovel, etc. It’s a fun romp that is a gore effects aficionado’s wet dream. I’ve heard the film described as a love letter to the slasher films of yesteryear, to which I couldn’t agree more. It manages to pay homage, while still being entertaining enough to stand on it’s own. After the first film, Horror had gained a new hot director, and a New icon was born in Victor Crowley.

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Hatchet II picks up literally where Hatchet left off, as the film begins during the final battle between Marybeth(Now played by Danielle Harris of Halloween fame).  Marybeth manages to escape the seemingly inevitably bloody end at the hands of Crowley and attempts to flee the swamp, being assisted by Jack Cracker who takes her back to his Cabin.  After learning that Sampson is her last name, he fearfully kicks her out, telling her that if she wants help, she needs to see Reverend Zombie. Moments after she leaves, Jack is killed by Victor Crowley, who gouges his intestines out and strangles him with them until he decapitates him…Leave it to an FX guy to give himself one of the coolest deaths!. Marybeth returns to Reverend Zombie’s shop and, after demanding to speak with him, he reluctantly lets her in(Along the way, we see Adam Green, passed out in the street). After learning her last name, he tells her that her father was one of the 3 boys responsible for causing the fire that originally killed Victor Crowley. He also tells her that Thomas, Victor’s father, had an affair with his wife’s nurse after she was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Moments before dying, Shyann Crowley placed a curse on the child conceived by the Nurse from the affair. Months later, she dies after giving birth to the deformed Victor Crowley. Initially ashamed of his son, Thomas hides Victor from the world, and becomes a bit of a recluse himself, but gradually grows to love his son. After Victor is killed in the fire, Thomas confronts the three boys responsible but they, along with their parents, deny it. Thomas becomes a shut-in and eventually dies of a broken heart ten years later. Ever since then, Crowley’s spirit has Haunted the swap, as he slaughtered anyone who entered. In Zombie’s shop, we learn that he was in fact running the ill-fated swamp tour, having set up a dummy operation to keep the heat off him. We also meet Shawn’s brother Justin, again played by Perry Shen. Marybeth enlists the help of Zombie to retrieve the bodies of her family, which he agrees to do, enlisting a posse of hunters to help retrieve his boat while they are at it. What follows is more over the top slaughter and for some reason a lot of mutilation that starts at the crotch. This is especially curious when you consider Victors use of a giant goddamn chainsaw…a killer Phallic symbol!

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Was Adam Green riled up into sexual frenzy at the pressense of Danielle Harris? I sure would be! The blood flows like wine and the limbs fly like…well, flies…i guess. Fuck it, it’s a swamp! Victor deals out one of his most brutal slayings to Rev Zombie as we see the continuation of a theme within the series, Kane Hodder(Jason Voorhees) brutally slaying his horror peers in Robert Englund(Freddy Kreuger), and Tony Todd(Candyman). Either Adam Green is the be-all-end-all Friday the 13th fan, or he was so terrified of Kane Hodder that he chose this trend to appease him. Both seem equally possible.  The climax of the film sees Marybeth using Victor’s own Hatchet to hack his head to a bloody stump, then deliver the Coup De Gras with a shotgun blast to what is left of his face, yelling “FUCK YOU!!!”” in defiance…Which leads us straight into…

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Picking up literally the instant we left off, Hatchet III opens to Marybeth shotgunning Crowley’s head to mulch, only for him to rise again and attack yet again. After knocking him back onto the running 8ft chainsaw from last film, literally splitting him in two(to which i stood up and cheered). This time believing Crowley to be truly dead, Marybeth grabs the spent shotgun, and a large piece of Crowley’s skull, and starts marching back to town with a catatonic look on her face. She stumbles into a Sheriffs office, gun and scalp in hand, muttering “…I killed ‘im…”. She is arrested and upon tellign authorities what happened, and where to find all the bodies, the Sheriff screams at her “That is the stupidest story I’ve ever heard, with the most asinine logic I have ever heard!” We then immediatly cut to a shot of Adam Green, now in the drunk tank, who looks up, and has a hurt look in his eyes. Brilliant! Because this film is still new, I won’t give away anymore details of the plot, but i will say we get to see appearances from  Perry Shen, who plays a Paramedic unrelated to the brothers from the first two films, all so they can make the “All Asians look alike” joke. Sid Haig(Devils Rejects, House Of 1000 Corpses, Coffy) makes an appearance as a relative of the Crowley family, and in a moment of Horror film geeky glory, Derek Mears plays a bad ass Swat leader who takes on Crowley. As we all know, Kane Hodder(Crowley) is famous for Playing Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th 7-10, while Derek Mears played Voorhees in the 2009 Reboot. Imagine seeing two Jasons square off! Will the new blood be able to match up with the crafty Veteran?

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All in all, I think the Hatchet franchise was a great ride. I’ve heard several criticisms that the plot lacks structure and the violence is unrealistic, to which I say: Good! The whole point of a slasher film is to let go of the real world and immerse yourself in a world where people make dumb decisions, and suffer horrible fates. These movies are meant to be fun. An early review of Hatchet III said it felt like a 90 minute Friday the 13th fan film. It is. It is made by fans of classic slasher films, FOR fans of classic slasher films. Hatchet is devoid of social commentary, of morality plays, it is a franchise that knows exactly what it is, and doesn’t try to be anything else…

A BLOODY GOOD TIME!