You’re in Good company when you’re amongst Wolves

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Here we have another nearly forgotten gem, burned into my memory from my days of exploring the VHS aisles. Long before I would be allowed to rent such a film, I was fascinated by the incredible image on the cover. Was this person turning into a Werewolf? Or was a wolf literally trying to escape from within? How did it get there? I didn’t pick up on metaphors very easily as a young lad, it seems…I didn’t even make the Little Red Riding Hood connection that was staring me right in the face. Young me must have had ADD. Since it’s gone so long untreated, i think it’s only proper to give me all the drugs for it now. I’ll catch up.

 

Everyone knows the cutesy version of fairytales, Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf, etc… and most of us have heard the bloody original versions which seemed to be told to scare children out of harms way. Boil away everything but the subtext of Grimms tales and the message is mostly “Kids, don’t do dumb shit, or associate with sketchy people, because you will get raped and die, MAYBE in that order.” Despite this we tend to hold these tales in a special place in our mind. They are instantly familiar, yet so often forgotten. This film is a perfect example of those qualities.  Equal parts anthology film, graphic fantastical retelling, fever dream, and erotic nightmare. The film unfolds within a dream where the characters tell various stories, which in turn unfold for the audience, all for the dreamer to wake to see her dream come to life. It’s a bit strange, and not the most easily accessible, but well worth the ride.

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Angela Lansbury plays “Granny”, who knits the Red Riding Hood, and tells the majority of the tales, and she is just a fucking joy to watch. Anytime she is on screen I can’t help but hum the “Murder She Wrote” theme to myself. Also a joy are the FX work and transformation sequences. Clearly the filmmakers paid careful attention to folklore when dreaming up the visuals. Unibrows and salves, and such abound! The telling of these classic fables through the mesh of human sexuality is somewhat jarring yet oddly fitting. So much imagery in the film doesn’t make sense and is totally wrong, such as Pythons and Reptiles chilling in a French Forrest, but they work within the dreamlike-fairy tale atmosphere

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Released several years after the trifecta of Wolfen, An American Werewolf in London and The Howling, I totally understand how this film went a bit under the radar. For Horror fans young and old, The Company of Wolves should be considered Must-See cinema, but is best viewed with an open mind. Lacking in Gore and Gratuitous Nudity, as well as the usual cheap thrills, the film more than makes up for it by positively dripping with Nightmarish atmosphere.

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Well Hot Damn! It feels good to be back! It’s been nearly a full year, but I promise I’m coming back with a new bag of tricks! Well, actually none of this shit is new…just stuff I haven’t used before.

This year’s #31DaysOfHorror will take a look at the works of two of the Masters: John Carpenter and Rob Zombie. Various entries will examine their films, and I’ll be taking a look at their recent “Feud”…and believe me…I have some fucking Venom to unleash on you fuckers.

 

You can also look forward to seeing original video content being included in a select few posts, as well as special guests. Welcome back, and enjoy the ride!

“Attacked by ‘uge fookin ‘owlin things!”

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Werewolf films are often quite stagnant. Steeped in folklore, with tropes we all know far to well, the opportunity for growth within the genre is often very rare. Then along come Neil Marshall’s directorial debut and while even borrowing heavily from other films, manages to give us a breath of fresh air. How did he do it? He didn’t make a Werewolf film that has Soldiers in it…he made a Soldier film with Werewolves in it.

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Our story finds a squad of Soldiers dropped into the Highlands for a training exercise against a Special Forces group. Unbeknownst to them, they are intended to be used as bait for a pack of Werewolves in the area, in hopes of capturing one of them. As one can expect, plans go pear-shaped and the plucky squad must retreat to a local cabin and try to fend off the furry brutes. The squad is led by Capt. Harry Wells(Sean Pertwee), the second in command is Pvt Cooper, and is rounded out by Spoon, Joe, Terry, and Bruce. The bond between this group runs very deep and despite their good natured bickering back and forth, you can tell that these are men who will be prepared to lay down their lives for each other. One criticism I’ve heard is that the squad seems too calm and cool when faced with a Werewolf assault. I’m not the least bit surprised, these are Soldiers, trained to kill, trained for combat in hellish conditions, and more than that, they have each other to keep their mood light. If any of these men were to face the same situation alone, I would expect far more terror.

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The beasts look very unique, and leave nothing to the imagination as to their nature. You look at these creatures and you know without a shadow of a doubt that you are seeing a fucking werewolf. Not some escaped Looney (although Cooper does reference this possibility…), not some giant wolf, no. These walk tall on two legs and have shaggy Lupine heads. With a small budget, the practical effects aren’t the best around, but still serve the purpose quite well. Cinematography, setting, score, and performances create a great atmosphere of both mirth and genuine dread. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is about this film, but whenever we get a brief glimpse of one of the creatures, be it a blood-soaked snout fogging up the window, or an out of focus reveal in the background, there is something so unnerving about these wolves. Somehow, “the little monster film that could” has tapped into something primal. I almost wish the direction had been tweaked slightly and the film had played this up more… Almost.

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Just as the creatures hunt with a relentless pack mentality, the Squad has no quit in them either. Sarge is a hard as nails man of experience who sadly spends most of the action portion of the film on the sidelines after having his guts literally slashed out and then stuffed back in. He’s not afraid to die, and in fact takes several opportunities to order that he be left behind to give the rest a better chance of escape. Cooper is calm and cunning, he leads well in the absence of the Sarge but doesn’t seem comfortable in the role. During the siege on the cabin, Cooper mostly goes back and forth helping his lads in their skirmishes rather than standing and fighting by himself. And then there is Spoon. Fuckin Spoon! This is a scrappy little bastard with a penchant for smart quips. Between using a kitchen pit to bash snouts, hammers to dash fingers and genuine fisticuffs to combat the wolves, Spoon has not an ounce of quit in him, even down to his last words before being eaten.

There have been rumours of a sequel for years, and in recent times, even a few false starts…whether we ever see anything else from this property or not, this film stands as true original…that somehow borrows heavily from An American Werewolf In London, The Evil Dead, and The Howling. Werewolves in film can be so hit and miss, the bad is really bad, but the good is really good. This is a perfect example of a Werewolf film done right!

#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

Strange things are afoot at the Skinwalker Ranch

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Yup, it’s another found footage film about creepy paranormal events(feels trite saying activity). So right off the bat, most people already know if they will like this film or not. On top of all this, the film alleges to be based on true events. Here we go again…

I was familiar with the stories about the more commonly known Sherman Ranch for around two years, and have always been intrigued by the tales of UFOs, Bigfoot-like creatures, crop-circles, glowing orbs, and poltergeist activity. So upon hearing about this film, and seeing teaser trailers, I was very excited…but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this would be a repeat of what happened with “There’s nothing left to Fear” (check previous entries for my review).

The film follows an investigation of the ranch conducted by a team of experts in the wake of the disappearance of a Ranchers son right before his very eyes. Strange occurrences abound, and are captured by the oh-so-convenient camera setup, each encounter appearing more frightening than the last, until the films eerie conclusion that leaves more questions than answers.

The creature designs are ok, but I can’t help but think how much better they would have looked had they been done practically instead of CG. The acting is pretty sharp for a bunch of no-names. There aren’t any Oscar worthy performances here, but I fully believe each and every performance. Nobody seems trite or forced, and it all seems natural. Perfect for a Pseudo-Documentary Horror Film.

While the film doesn’t show us anything we haven’t seen in countless other FF films, or even a few episodes of Paranormal State…it’s still a very watchable film. Personally, I really enjoyed it. I have a soft spot for Found Footage Paranormal films. Sue me.

#31DayOfHorror: Oct 7-9

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Oct 7th: Silver Bullet(1985): http://youtu.be/WQ24mMwi9Mk

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Y’know how the movie is never as good as the book? Well that goes double for movies based on books written by Stephen King. King’s Novella “Cycle Of The Werewolf” is a year long arc, broken up into chapters based around the lunar cycle, and telling the story of a Werewolf hunting in a small town, only to be found out, and ultimately stopped by a young brother and sister. Where  “Cycle” really shone was in allowing King to do what he does best by crafting a haunting and engaging atmosphere, one in which we cannot help but look forward to what horror lurk on the next page. Helping this along were the incredible illustrations of Bernie Wrightson, who King had also collaborated with on Creepshow.

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Now as far as 80’s werewolf films go, Silver Bullet is far from the worst, but when compared to the Holy Trinity of 1981 (The Howling, Wolfen, an An American Werewolf In London), it pales in comparison. Having said that, it’s not without it’s charm. It stars Corey Haim as the wheelchair-bound Marty, Gary Busey as the Cool-as-shit Uncle Red, and Everett McGill as Reverend Lowe, later revealed to be the werewolf. The story depicted in the film is greatly compressed, taking place within a single summer, rather than a full year, and sees Busey turn in a fantastic performance, the highlight of which is him unleashing the “Full-crazy-face” when he finally sees the werewolf. 

Oct 8th: The Fog(1980): http://youtu.be/nOZwnivtLbc

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This was the first film made by Carpenter after his massive success in Halloween. While it was not nearly as big a hit, it still works as a good old fashioned ghost story. 100 years ago, 6 men conspired to sink a ship full of Lepers and loot the wreckage. The sea-side town of Antonio Bay was founded with the ill-gotten gold, and on the centennial anniversary of the town, a mysterious glowing fog rolls in from sea, carrying with it the vengeful spirits. Carpenter’s films are often known for their simple yet iconic synth scores, and this may be his finest yet. A truly creepy dirge that captures the feeling of the film perfectly. In 2005, a remake of The Fog was released…and the less said about that the better. Carpenter’s Fog still stands up as am eerie, moody film, drenched in atmospheric horror. This should be required viewing for young-uns who need a horror film education.

 

Oct 9th: Sleepaway Camp(1983): http://youtu.be/5pjjuFT6QF4

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Where to begin? This gender-bending camping gem is responsible for one of the strangest twist endings in film history and packs more than its fair share of odd sexual plot points. The film opens to see a Father and his two young children enjoying a summer day on the lake, when a freak accident sees a speedboat crash into them. 8 years later, and we learn the lone survivor Angela now lives with her cousin Ricky and her very odd aunt. As Ricky and Angela are leaving for camp, it is established that Angela isn’t very talkative, and her Aunt speaks like a Stepford wife who says literally everything that comes to her mind. Upon arriving at the camp, it’s teen politics as usual, with Ricky being somewhat popular and keeping a watchful eye out for shy Angela, who proves an easy target for the other kids. Kids are assholes. Soon after the camp opens and the campers arrive, it becomes clear that a murderer is at work, and it seems like Ricky might be the culprit…but the eventual reveal (never has that term been more appropriate) will be something NOBODY will see coming.

Because it’s the 80s, there are an awful lot of campers and counselors alike wearing hilariously short shorts, and feathered hair. It also spawned two hilariously bad sequels. After the big reveal…ah fuck it, Angela is actually a boy, we get a more clear picture of the mental state of the Aunt. At first she just seems odd and quirky, but when we learn that she views the taking in of her orphaned nephew as an opportunity to have the little girl she always wanted, it becomes very clear she is a deeply disturbed woman. It is also revealed that before the accident, Angela and her Brother walked in on their father in the throws of a homosexual relationship, the significance of which isn’t really addressed, but we are left to assume has left Angela traumatized. And because the sexuality on this film wasn’t deviant enough, the first victim is a Pedophile working in the mess hall, who attempts to take advantage of Angela before she is saved by Ricky. I confess that i don’t know exactly what the writers were trying to say by incorporate all these elements, but I will say that anytime i meet a cute girl, part of me wonders if she has a dick.