Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day 31: Trick R Treat (2007-2009)


A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 31: Trick R Treat (2007-2009)

The Halloween season is as much about the perception of fear, the cool nights, the anticipation of things that go bump in the night, as it is about the iconography.  My first glimpse of a leaf-strewn sidewalk is usually enough to get me going for my favourite time of year: there is a crispness in the air, and slight whiff of decay as the vibrancy of summer slowly steps aside for the long, bleak months of winter.  Without fail, once Halloween as passed, and sometimes while it is full regalia, the snow will fall.

The true beauty of Michael Dougherty's "Trick R Treat" is that it captures the true essence of the season, and not just the day.  Virtually every frame of this fantastic film is filled with iconography of the season, and the most majestic day itself.  It might be a scarecrow in a desolate filed of crops, or a hundred jack-o-lanterns, to a pile of razorblades strewn throughout a mound of spilled candy, but like no other movie before it, "Trick R Treat" oozes the essence of Halloween.

Originally scheduled for a theatrical release in 2007, this masterpiece of the season was eventually released straight-to-DVD with little fanfare in 2009.  It was an injustice to the horror film community.  This is a film that should be celebrated and revered for its pure love of the holiday that so many of us hold dear.

There are five many stories contained with "Trick R Treat", each one linked by the mysterious sack-headed "Sam" who we come to learn is the embodiment of the holiday, or Samhain (the originally Celtic holiday upon which much of our modern version of 'Halloween' is based).

After the introductory scene with Tahmoh Penikett and Leslie Bibb, we also encounter main stories headed by Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin, Britt McKillip and Brian Cox...  This is not an anthology though.

Each separate story weaves around the others and together they form an incredible anthology of all that makes Halloween special.  The stories are spooky, terrifying and overall brilliant, and that is why Warner Brothers studios failed.  This could have easily become the yearly Halloween anthology that John Carpenter had hoped to create with "Halloween III", instead it was a one-off curiosity that went straight to DVD.

Imagine a cinematic landscape where each year, a new collection of Halloween related tales was released (instead we got "Saw IV", which this would have been up against and was DTV at best - and now we have the "Paranormal Activities", which continue to recycle the same concept year after year).

When we have the opportunity to support films such as "Trick R Treat", we need to embrace them and let them know that these are the movies we want to see.  We need to make it clear that original and tantalizing visions are better than recycled nonsense ad nauseum, year after year.

"Trick R Treat" is something that could stay fresh every year because there is a abundance of material to choose from.  Every film on this list so far provides inspiration (and many of them clearly did) for what makes a great "Halloween" story.

If you haven't yet seen "Trick R Treat", or any of the other movies on this list, I highly encourage you to get off this blog and onto your nearest media viewing platform of choice.  After all, 'tis the season!

Trick R Treat everyone, and Happy Halloween to all!





Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Day 30: Juan of The Dead (2011)



A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 30: Juan Of The Dead (2011)

Did you know that Cuba recently produced its first independent horror movie?  Did you know that said movie is full of violence, swearing, nudity and depravity of the grade you would expect form most non-communist productions?

"Juan Of The Dead" is far from a perfect movie, but it is extremely commendable for it achieves: a funny and gory take on what would happen if a zombie outbreak occurred in a communist country such as Cuba.  While not an entirely accurate portrait of Cuba or its people, it is the subversive sense of humour, and audacity of writer/director Alejandro Brugues that keeps the movie flowing.

There are moments in "Juan of the Dead" that had me laughing out loud (watch for the tango of the dead), and others that had me gasping in surprise.  There are also clever homages throughout, including an underwater moment with a shark and a fellow who ' Kicks ass for the Lord', but it is the cultural and socio-political commentary peppered throughout that really makes this a unique viewing experience.

Perhaps one of the biggest charms of this movie is the fact that it is thoroughly Cuban, but there is also a surprising undercurrent of dissidence throughout the film.  Of course it does share many of the traits of its inspirations (namely Shaun and Dawn), but that doesn't mean it is any less fresh of an approach.

If you aren't looking for socio-political commentary, there is definitely a fun zombie movie to be had here, one that constantly surprises with its twists and turns.  If you can stomach delicious titles, and even more delicious brains, this is a movie more than worth its running time.

Tomorrow brings us to day 31, Halloween.  I think its about time for a little trick r treating...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Day 29: Poltergeist (1982)



A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 29: Poltergeist (1982)

I was not very old when this came out, but despite the pedigree of the director (Tobe Hooper, of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" fame), the pedigree of the Executive Producer who was boldly emblazoned across the Beta tapes cover at the local video store (Steven Spielberg, of "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" fame - also released in 1982) meant that my parents allowed me to rent this spectacular film.

Many of Spielberg`s classic tropes are here: from the idyllic suburban setting, to the less than idyllic family dynamics.  It`s no wonder conspiracy theories abound about just how much of a role Spielberg actually played in the making of "Poltergeist".

The harrowing story of the Freeling family hinges around the young and innocent Carol Anne, played by Heather O`Rourke, who is whisked away into a digital spirit netherworld while her family desperately strikes out against the once mischievous (chair stacking) spirits who have stolen their daughter away.

The story slowly unfolds with the family divided; Carol Anne`s voice echoing out of the snow filled television.  Back in the Freeling home, even with the assistance of Zelda Rubenstein`s medium Tangina, things quickly deteriorate for the family, especially poor Robbie, who is subjected to more horrors than any child should have to endure - from braces, to demonic clowns, to evil trees in the night.

"Poltergeist" is definitely a scary movie, and one that will stay with you for a long time.  It is also a movie with a lot of heart, and an equally large amount of genuinely nerve-wrenching scares.  It is definitely always worth a watch.

Tomorrow I will take a very unique film for a spin.  Viva Cuba Libre!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Day 28: 28 Days Later (2002)


A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 28: 28 Days Later (2002)

George A. Romero defined the zombie genre with his lumbering undead.  They were corpses risen from the dead to stalk the living.  In 2002, Danny Boyle and Alex Garland reinvented the genre with their fast-moving version of the classic zombie, although, they did it with a twist.

The zombies in "28 Days Later" are not in fact zombies; they are normal humans who have mistakenly been exposed to a rage virus.  It is that virus that causes them to take on zombie-like tendencies, albeit at a hyper-speed level.

The opening scenes with Cillian Murphy's Jim wandering through the desolate and deserted core of downtown London, England, are indeed eerie.  When he finally meets Naomie Harris' Selena, after a tense showdown by a gas station, the first seeds of post-holocaust family are placed.

As their band of survivors slowly expands and they make their way towards the inevitable beacon of hope in Northern England, the desperation slowly sets in.

"28 Days Later" does a great job of examining what would happen to our society in the event of an extinction level event.  It showcases both the highs and lows of the human potential, much in the way that Romero did before.

The music by John Murphy also adds a great deal of mood and ambiance to the piece, and if you are curious as to what occurred 28 weeks later, the sequel was also very well done.

Tomorrow, I will be taking a trip into the light, despite the warnings against...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Day 27: Halloween Specials


A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 27:  Halloween Specials

As a youngster, heck even as a grown adult, one of my favourite aspects of the Halloween season was always the specials that the average shows would produce.  Back in the day, "Roseanne" and "Home Improvement" always impressed with their efforts.  Even better, was that our "regularly scheduled programming" would often be preempted for special holiday themed presentations...

When it came to Halloween, there were two specials that always extended a warm embrace and today, I recommend them both to you.  They were the Garfield Halloween Special, and "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown".

Both Garfield and Charlie Brown had a number of Holiday Specials, but it was that Halloween themed ones that always stood out to me.

With Garfield's Halloween Special, the gourmand cat and his intrepid friend Odie set out in search of a great haul of candy.  What they encounter instead is a band of pirate ghosts out to terrorize the world of trick-or-treaters.

"It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" features a typically whimsical Peanuts story with Charlie Brown and friends succeeding at failing to celebrate the Halloween season.  Both are highly recommended, and to flesh out you hour of specials, I also recommend an additional short film.  If you can find it...

"A Short Film About John Bolton" is a documentary that was written and directed by Neil Gaiman.  John Bolton is an artist that Gaiman has worked with over the years, and this piece examines the artist's methods and inspirations...  With a twist.  I would hesitate to say more than that, but it is an excellent piece that lends itself well to the Halloween season.

Tomorrow, I will examine what happens 28 days after a zombie outbreak in London, England.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Day 26: Jaws (1975)



A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 26: Jaws (1975)

The oil painted boat above might be a stretch, but if you imagine that ill-fated crew out on the high seas in search of Moby Dick, you get the basic theme of Steven Spielberg's classic "Jaws".  You also get the impact of a well delivered masterpiece that showcases the terrors that lie below, and the need for "a bigger boat".

When it was first released in theatres, 37 years ago, audiences did not know what to expect.  It was a whole new kind of terror, one that was implied as much as it was evident.

From the opening scenes with the skinny dipping beauty, to the eventual calamity that befalls the small community of Amity, Jaws is an unrelenting masterpiece of suspense and terror.  When Brody eventually hits the waters with Quint and Hooper, the movie reverts to a timeless battle of man versus nature.

The shark in "Jaws" is as terrifying, and unrelenting as the land-based slashers that dominate lists such as this, only it is all the more terrifying because it sneaks up on its unsuspecting victims and pulls them down into the dark.

An unseen predator is the most terrifying of all.  One that will sneak up on you from below on a bright summer day at the beach.  One that will maul and maim its victims for no other reason than to feed.

Upon its release, attendance at public beaches dropped substantially.  That says a great deal for the impact that a movie can have, for the terror that it can instill into an unwitting populace...

Tomorrow, I am planning another journey into the unknown, with three short productions that should make the essential viewing list every year - two of which are stalwarts of the season!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Day 25: Incident At Loch Ness (2004)



A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 25: Incident at Loch Ness (2004)

What would happen if one of the world's greatest living directors was hired to direct a documentary about one of the world's greatest cryptozoological mysteries?  The result could very well be similar to Zak Penn's "Incident At Loch Ness".

This particular film acknowledges the audience at every turn and shows the voyage of an intrepid film crew as the head out onto the murky waters of Scotland's Loch Ness in search of the mythical "Nessie".  The brilliant twist to Penn's movie is that he hires Werner Herzog to produce, direct and narrate the film.

For those of you unfamiliar with Werner Herzog, he is a German filmmaker who has excelled in both the narrative fiction and documentary style of film and has developed a reputation for being both an unparalleled visionary, as well as a somewhat demented genius.  There is footage of an interview with Herzog online where he is shot in the stomach by a mischief with a pellet gun.  His reaction is a dismissive one and he continues the interview after dismissing his bloodied navel as nothing more than a "mere flesh wound".

He is the exact kind of character to headline such a film, and such an excursion, and it is his incredulous delivery of lines as things spiral out of control that ties this documentary together.  His unique accent also lends a degree of gravitas to the slowly spiralling-out-of-control proceedings of this excellent film.  Do your self a favor and check out this ingeniously twisted masterpiece.

Tomorrow, I will be taking another trip down memory lane.  Only this time, I'm going to need a bigger boat.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Day 24: The Amityville Horror (1979)



A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 24: The Amityville Horror (1979)

As a child of the '80s, there were few scarier grand myths than the story of "The Amityville Horror".  The thing that made this one different, was that it was based on real life events, which made it entirely true to our impressionable, young minds.

"The Amityville Horror" not only features a timeless story of haunting and possession, but also a timelessly iconic haunted house that could be visited at any time, by any viewer of the film.  It was a real place in a real town, and supposedly a real story.

The story of George and Kathy Lutz is one that has been widely publicized, and one that is widely derided as either a potential true story, or a pure fabrication.  There is plenty of evidence to be found online suggesting that the Lutzs fabricated a haunting based on the murders committed by Ronald DeFeo, however, the fact vs. fiction elements of the story remain unresolved to this day.

"The Amityville Horror" is a classic story of good versus evil and tells the story of the Lutz family's battle against the evil forces that posses their newly purchased dream home.  It is a creepy movie, filled with many of the classic elements of the haunted house picture.

Naturally, the evil presence first makes itself known to the youngest child in the family, but as the story unfolds, the parents, priests and more take up arms against the insidious forces that are calling the house home.

Like many films of its era, it has been followed by sequels and a half decent remake, but the original remains the best by far.

Tomorrow, I will be taking a trip to Scotland where things are potentially going to get real...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Day 23: The Cabin In The Woods (2011)



A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 23: The Cabin In The Woods (2011)

You know the story...  A group of teenagers/college students head out into the woods for a weekend away at a cabin.  It is one of the great tropes of modern horror, based mostly in the simplicity of the location and the ability to crank out a horror movie on the cheap.  Every now and then though, that classic trope is turned on its head, and never more successfully than in Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's "The Cabin In The Woods".

The stereotypes are all there: the stoner, the jock, the nice guy, the slut, and of course the virginal "last girl", but where "The Cabin In The Woods truly sets things apart, is in its ability to take those stereotypes, and our expectations about what will happen to each character, and throw them all out the window.

We always bet on the virginal "last girl" being the one to make it through.  If you were to take it to Vegas, that would be the safest bet.  What we rarely know, however, is how each of the stereotypes will be removed from the equation, and by what gruesome killer.

"Cabin In The Woods" is a beautiful film because it showcases not only the genre staples, but also the possibilities to which the horror genre could extend.  It is a traditional slasher movie, but it is also so much more than that: an examination of the genre, and also a total deconstruction.

I do not want  to get into too many specifics with this film for those of you who have not seen it.  What I do want, is that you give it a better chance that Hollywood did.  This is a smart, scary, and completely unique film that deserves to be seen.  Give it a chance, and know that you will be happier having done so...

Tomorrow, I plan to pay a visit to one of the world's greatest haunted houses...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 22: The Hills Have Eyes ((2006)


A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 22: The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

There is no creepier sensation than the feeling of being watched.  It's a simple concept, but one that will strike a nerve with any audience member.  It is something that Wes Craven preyed upon in his original 1977 version, and something that Alexandre Aja turned up to 11 in the 2006 sequel produced by Platinum Dunes (who also remade "Friday the 13th", "A Nightmare On Elm Street", "The Hitcher", "Amityville Horror", and many other classics of the past).

What Aja's remake does right, is the increase of tension from the original.  In 1977, the fears were similar, and Craven's original vision is definitely worth seeing, but the remake improves on so much of what was established in the original.

Much like the remake of Craven's "The Last House On The Left", Aja's version of "The Hills Have Eyes" forgoes much of the bizarre and out-of-place humour of the original and increases the terror and despair by considerable amounts.

The film follows the Carter family as they make their way across the American Southwest in a Winnebago.  When their transportation breaks down, it all seems quite innocuous at first, until things start going very, very wrong.

The destruction and dissolution of family and the American dream is often hard to watch, particularly once the family is beset by the irradiated mountain folk who have their eyes set on nothing but carnage.

While the original is a great film, the remake actually manages to create a little more tension by reinforcing the bonds of family and the lengths we will go to preserve those we love.

Tomorrow, I am taking a little trip out into the woods for a bit of a cabin getaway with a few friends...  Hope to see you there.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Day 21: V/H/S (2012)



A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 21:  V/H/S (2012)

In recent years, the found footage genre has become one of the most popular types of horror movie.  Everything from "Paranormal Activity" to today's entry, which many have described as the scariest movie of the year.  It is scary, but the problem with most "found footage" films is that people need a reason to record every moment of what they are experiencing.

With "V/H/S", the tropes are even harder to get past, but there is still some effective film making that takes place.  The "big picture" story involves a group of deplorable humans who record their debauched exploits and post them online.  When they break into an old man's house to steal a single VHS cassette, they find the man dead in his armchair in a room filled with VHS cassettes.  It is this conceit that allows the filmmakers to present their different tales of terror, all within the basis that each story is a different tape in the man's house.

While the segments vary in quality, there is a great deal to appreciate in the fusion of low-fi filming and high quality special effects.  The first person perspective adds a sense of immediacy to the different stories, and there is definitely a growing sense of tension that increases as the jump cuts help forward each vignette.

The problem again with these types of films, is that the type of person who would film all their experiences in such a way is usually not a type of person that is easy to relate to.  With some exceptions (a couple chatting over Skype, or a guy whose costume is a teddy bear "Nanny-cam") it seems odd that the characters would be filming their escapades.  And that their modern escapades filmed on Skype would end up on a collection of VHS tapes in an old man's collection.

Still, there are some effective scares and moments throughout the different vignettes and if you can stomach the chills, it is worth popping this one into your VCR.

Tomorrow, I get the feeling that someone might be watching me.  From over in those hills...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Day 20: A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)



A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 20: A Nigthmare On Elm Street (1984)

There are many names that spring to mind when it comes to great horror movie output.  Carpenter and Romero hold firm places in the genre, as does Wes Craven.  There are many films in his catalogue that helped redefine the genre, but arguably his most famous film would be "A Nightmare On Elm Street", at least up until the release of "Scream"in 1996.

The conventions are similar to other horror films, and while the horny stoner youth are the inevitable victims of the demented killer, the twists in the original nightmare did bring a new dimension to the standard formula.

Freddy Krueger was a bad man: a molester and abuser of children.  That woul,d have been sinister enough on its own, but Craven went one step further by making Krueger the ultimate nightmare killer: one who only comes to his victims in their sleep.

The fact that he is already dead makes him that much more unstoppable, a force from beyond that feeds on the youth of Elm Street as they sleep.  As we all know, sleep is an inevitable.  Eventually, we will all fall asleep.  Sleep is supposed to be our refuge from reality, our safe place to go.  When sleep becomes a place we go to die, it makes the inevitability of falling asleep that much more terrifying

That was the genius of the original "A Nightmare On Elm Street".  Freddy really was a force from beyond, one who terrorized his victims and killed them off one by one.  He had a solid motivation for doing so as well, the great motivator of revenge (albeit from a twisted perspective).

The sequels sort of went down hill, turning Freddy into a wisecracking maniac, more than an actual terror, but they still have their moments, as does the remake.

Tomorrow, I plan to go old school, with a very newschool movie.  Fire up the VCRs...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 19: Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)



A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 19: Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

There was a time in the 1980s where Walt Disney Studios were well-known for their more subversive fare, movies like "Tron" and "The Black Hole", that blew young minds with their sci-fi stories, and others such as "The Watcher In The Woods" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes", that left permanent scars on the young psyches of their viewers.

"Something Wicked This Way Comes" featured a screenplay by Ray Bradbury, based on his own original story, and features many of Bradbury's common themes.  The movie is a celebration of the innocence of youth, just as it is a tribute to the eerie mystique of autumn, a season that more than any represents a passage of sorts.

Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade are you average young boys in an average small town.  It is an idyllic introduction before things end up going off the rails with the arrival of a travelling carnival.  It soon becomes clear to the two young boys, that there might be more to the carnival than the rides and attractions it hawks on the unsuspecting public.

The beauty of this movie, a failure in its day with both audiences and critics, is that the story is a clear example of Bradbury's genius, and his ability to take those things that are comfortable and familiar, and twist them into a darker less obvious version that the one we know.  He is able to take our deepest set dreams and turn them into nightmares.

While not a perfect movie, and one that didn't do so well on its initial release after major studio reworks, it is still a creepy story and one that has always remained with me over the years.

Tomorrow, I plan to visit with one of the other great slashers of the horror genre, one who encourages no running in the halls...


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Day 18: The Ruins (2008)



A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 18: The Ruins (2008)

"The Ruins" tells the story of two American couples in the midst of transitioning from high school into the world of adulthood during a trip to South America.  Based on a novel by Scott Smith (who also wrote the novel and Academy Award nominated screenplay for Sam Raimi's crime thriller "A Simple Plan") "The Ruins" really is a movie unlike many others, and seems to constantly zig in the story, when you expect it to zag.

The spine of this film easily lies on the competent young cast that includes Shawn Ashmore, Jena Malone, Jonathan Tucker (who was also in yesterday's entry) and Laura Ramsey, as well as British actor Joe Anderson whose character Mathias recruits the four Americans for a tour into the jungle.

When the group sets out to visit an ancient Mayan ruin, everything seems fairly innocent.  When the locals show up, shouting and angrily gesticulating, and eventually killing their local guide, things quickly spiral out of control into a a bizarre and fascinating movie that keeps you constantly guessing and perplexed.

The obvious suspects and initial suspicions are quickly subverted and the story that slowly unfolds is one that is very much unlike any that has come before.

It turns out that Mathias was actually looking for his brother, who went missing after a trek out to the old Mayan ruins, but saying much more about the actual plot would really just spoil the bizarre twists and turns that follow the group's flight to the top of the Mayan pyramid following the death of their local guide.

As accidents befall the group, and the mystery expands, the story slowly builds in dread and tension.  A classic "contained environment" tale of horror, "The Ruins" truly is a one-of-a-kind descent into horror and desperation.  It's worth going along for the ride with out hapless protagonists as their world slowly and inevitably spirals out of control and into a whole new realm of horror.

Tomorrow, I will be going Shakespearean with a tale by one of my idols - one that terrified me as a child...  See you then!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day 17: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)


A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 17: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Tobe Hooper's original "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" from 1974 spawned three direct sequels, and a fourth that will be released in January of 2013.  The original movie was exceptionally stark and harrowing - so believable that it was banned in many countries (it also happens to be another film on the infamous "Video Nasties" list).

When a remake was first announced, my initial thought, was why?  Why mess with a classic?  When the first trailer was revealed, I was surprisingly optimistic all of a sudden - the trailer was extremely well edited and portrayed a few key things: it was set in the same time frame, and looked like what a remake should: more polished, more professional, and slightly revisionist without veering too far from what made the original a classic.

The remake begins with a similar introduction, this time a crime scene walk through at the Hewitt residence on August 20, 1973, where five teen aged bodies have been discovered...

From there it sticks close to the original plot, but it also veers off enough to provide a bit of character building and plot development.

One of the most memorable aspects of this film is the cinematography by Daniel Pearl.  He manages to capture the both the arid heat and vast expanses of the Texas desert, as well as the eerie shadows and ominous darkness of the Hewitt mansion, in a way that truly helps sell the story of the five youth destined for trouble once the movie cuts back to two days prior to the police investigation.

While not as starkly terrifying as the original, this is an excellent revisitation of the same themes and aspects that made the original, and by extension "Leatherface" such iconic entries into the evolving landscape of Hollywood horror.

If you do decide to check out this beautifully shot, and capably retold sequel, make sure you also give the gritty and nasty original a chance as well.  they are both deserving of your time.

Tomorrow, I plan on heading south for a bizarre journey into Las Selva.  Bring your sunscreen, and leave the cellphones at home!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Day 16: The Evil Dead (1981)


A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 16: The Evil Dead (1981)


Where it all began for so many...  Back in the early nineteen eighties, and I know this is hard to believe, but there was a thing called the "Video Nasties", an attempt by the Thatcher regimen in the United Kingdom to place all of society's woes at the time, into the hands of a handful of "horror" movies.  Again, it seems hard to believe that any form of democratic government would attempt to lay blame for the state of their country on a handful of artists who were simply trying to tell a creepy story that hopefully shocked the audiences watching it, but that was indeed the way of the world in the '80s.


I was fortunate enough to see a handful of "Video Nasties" on the big screen when I lived in England and one of them was "The Evil Dead", a movie that holds a warm place in my heart.  The original movie in the series was a straightforward horror story about a group of young adults who travel out into the wilds to spend a weekend away.  Things obviously go awry...


"The Evil Dead" spawned two official sequels, "The Evil Dead 2" which was essentially a remake that put more emphasis on "Splatstick", a fusion of horror and slapstick 3 Stooges-esque comedy that would become a trademark of director Sam Raimi's, and the even more comedic and slapstick infused "Army of Darkness", which was set in medieval times.  There is also a remake coming out in the near future...

The thing is, "The Evil Dead" inspired a resurgence in low-budget, low-fi horror movies and it did so in  a way that was original and unique.  It also (eventually) catapulted director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell into the spotlight.

The beauty of the original "Evil Dead" film is that it showcases many of the defining traits that would become intrinsically linked with both its director and star.  With Raimi, it shows that even at a young age, he was a capable visionary able to develop entirely new ways to shoot a film on a shoestring budget, and with Campbell, it clearly indicates an early appreciation for both bravado and self deprecation.


This is a defining film for two stalwarts who didn't even know (I'm sure) that they were destined to such long standing careers in the industry, and one that has left an indelible mark on the horror film landscape.  Check it out, but make sure you also follow it up with the 1987 sequel that ratchets the crazy up by at least three stooges worth, yet somehow remains an equally, if not more engaging film.


Tomorrow, I plan to not cut off my hand, but I will rev up a chainsaw, you deadite bitch!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Day 15: The Innkeepers (2011)



A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 15: The Innkeepers (2011)

Director Ti West burst onto the horror scene in 2009 with his film "The House of The Devil", which was brilliantly marketed as a low-budget '80s style babysitter-in-peril type film and was actually released on VHS (not too common for its time) as well as more modern formats.

With "The Innkeepers", West proves he is capable of much more than loving homage to the type of movie that no doubt inspired him.  Rather than follow up his initial success with a sequel, or similarly themed venture, West instead pursued the supernatural with what can only be described as a slow burn suspense film.

Incorporating elements of both "The Shining" and the "Paranormal Activity" films, "The Innkeepers" tells the story of Claire and Luke, two attendants working the front desk of The Yankee Peddler Inn on its last weekend of operation.  The fact that Luke's character happens to be running a website about paranormal activity at the hotel is relevant, as well as a bit of a red herring.

Many might describe this particular film as boring, because the gore is limited to certain key points.  They would be missing the point.  What this movie does well, is create a sense of slow burn dread that is a-typical in today's horror movie landscape, a suspense that feeds on the unseen horrors more than the obvious jump scares.

"The Innkeepers" does a great job of building dread, and rarely relies on illustrating the terror being experienced by Claire and Luke.  In that sense, it is not unlike the first movie to open this column, John Carpenter's "Halloween".  There are moments of pure shock and gore, but this really is a psychological terror, not entirely different from Stanley Kubrick's classic take on Stephen King's "The Shining".

 Like "The House of The Devil", this movie is an homage to those that came before it, only with "The Innkeepers", Ti West pursues a direction more in the vein of Hammer Films' classic tales of suspense and dread.  If you are patient enough, you will find yourself endeared by Sara Paxton's "Claire" for certain, and to a slightly lesser degree Pat Healy's "Luke" and Kelly McGillis'"Miss Rease-Jones".

Tomorrow, I just might head out to the original cabin in the woods.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Day 14: The Mist (2007)


A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 14: The Mist (2007)

When I first heard about Frank Darabont was making a film out of Stephen King's "The Mist", I was pretty excited.  He had already done a fantastic job with "The Green Mile", and an even more impressive job with "The Shawshank Redemption" (both King stories as well).

The difference here would be that Darabont would be veering into King's more horrific stable of stories for the first time.

The final product definitely lived up to my somewhat high expectations.  When I first read the shot story, or novella, of "The Mist", it was a creepy tale.  Seeing it translated by someone as multi talented as Darabont, only expanded on that initial vibe.

Under Darabont's studious gaze, "The Mist" becomes, ironically enough, another tale of imprisonment, only this time the central characters are imprisoned within an unfathomable nightmare, and with unfathomable cellmates.  Elements of the Stanford Prison Experiment permeate the story as the denizens of a small town slowly succumb to the madness of the situation they are exposed to...

Following a freak violent storm, a mist descends on their hometown, trapping several locals in the grocery store.  Things quickly go from bad when they realize that Lovecraftian horrors lurk in the swirling mists, to worse when they slowly start turning on each other.  There will always be different tensions in any group dynamic and the tensions wrought by Marcia Gay Harden's devout Mrs. Carmody, and Andre Braugher's gruff Brent Norton, to the sympathy felt for Jeffrey DeMunn's Dan Miller and Natahn gamble's Billy Drayton (Jane's son) only serve to reinforce the dangers and threats of those group dyamics.

Different groups band together and fall apart, and eventually, Thomas Jane's protagonist David Drayton, his son, and a few other survivors make a break for freedom, only to discover that freedom often comes with a price, and sometimes, it also comes too late.

This is a film with plenty of jump scares, and also one that oozes a permanent sense of dread that roils throughout each frame like the titular mist.  It also happens to feature one of the starkest, most bleak endings of any "popular" horror film in recent recollection, a fact that makes it almost instantly recommendable.  If you can, seek out the black and white version, for an even more starkly horrific experience.

Tomorrow, based on an anonymous post on the blog, I plan to take a bit of time off and check into to an inn...  Hope to see you there!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Day 13: Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)



A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 13: Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

Ch-ch-ch-ka-ka-ka...  "Friday the 13th" aimed to capitalize of the success of other "holiday" themed horror movies and it became a perennial sequel-generator in doing so, with ten official entries between 1980 and  2001, a spin off that pitted Jason against Freddy Krueger in 2003, and a remake in 2009.  The entire series is a tribute to what came before, right down to Harry Manfredini's score that is evocative of Bernard Herrman's score for "Psycho", yet also a definitive product of the '80s.

It wasn't until the third installment in the franchise that Jason officially became the hockey mask sporting killer that most know and love (in the original, it was his mother who was the killer, and in Part II, he wore a cloth sac over his deformed head) so I decided to focus on this installment.

Originally filmed in 3-D, the movie is full of obvious "gimmick" shots, but it is also the film that firmly cemented the rules that the series would grow to follow.  A group of horny teens ends up on a weekend getaway to get high and have sex, and by the end, only the "final girl" remains, the rest having been dispatched by the murderous Jason Voorhees.

There is no real motivation to the story.  The lore is set up in the first movie that Jason drowned at the hands of a group of neglectful counsellors at Camp Crystal Lake, but it is never really solidified beyond that.

As much as I revere the Halloween series, the motivations of Michael Myers remain equally ambiguous, as are those of Freddy Krueger, and the countless slashers in their vein that have appeared throughout the years.  It is the formula that continually draws audiences in.

For whatever reason, people like watching nubile teens get  their rocks off before getting systematically dismembered at the hands of an unstoppable force of killing destruction.

"Friday the 13th" remains one of the perennial slasher films (and it does illicit a fear of the wilderness if you are susceptible to such frights) and Jason will always remain one of the true icons of horror.

Tomorrow, I plan to get a little misty eyed for Thomas Jane...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Day 12: Dead Alive (1992)


A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 12: Dead Alive (1992)

 While not quite oedipal, Lionel Cosgrove certainly had some "mother" issues, especially once she was bitten by the infamous Sumatran Rat Monkey in Peter Jackson's splatterific "Dead Alive" (a.k.a. "Brain Dead").

While not without its horrific moments, "Dead Alive" does tend to lean more towards the comedic end of the horror spectrum as the bumbling Lionel does his best to keep a lid on what becomes only too clearly a zombie-like outbreak.  His overbearing mother is the first victim, bitten by a WETA generated Sumatran Rat Monkey (a creature that was also eluded to in Jackson's 2005 redo of "King Kong").

Things quickly spiral out of control for Lionel as the plague spreads and he is forced to lock more and more infected away in the home he shares with his mother.

"Dead Alive" is a fantastic film that shows many of the kinetic cinematic flourishes its director would become known for.  It also pays loving homage to the zombie genre while mixing the tender drama and slapstick comedy that Jackson and others of his kind use so effectively.

From the preacher who "kicks ares in the name of the lord" to the disgustingly hilarious denouement that sees hapless Lionel enter his home armed with a lawnmower to break up a zombie bacchanal, this is a delightful showcase of practical effects and practical storytelling.

Definitely worth a watch (as are Jackson's other horror efforts "The Frighteners" and "Bad Taste").  Tomorrow, we go to camp...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Day 11: [REC] (2007)


A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 11: [REC] (2007)

Written and directed by Spanish duo Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza, [REC] was an immediate hit on the horror film festival, and it also happened to be released the same year as Oren Peli's "Paranormal Activity".

While both were solid examples of the "found footage" film genre, I chose to focus on this Spanish-language original because it felt somewhat more organic.  "Paranormal Activity" was a well done movie, but I always had an issue with the logistics behind the cameras being there.

With "[REC]", the cameras are in place due to a much out-of-their-league news crew who begins the film doing an "after dark" profile with the local fire station.  It isn't long before the entire night, and story, spirals far out of control.

The inherent flaw that is in place with all films of this nature still exists.  Why the hell would the camera operator not just ditch the camera and get the hell out of Dodge, and bring any of the potential survivors with them?

What saves this movie, and to be honest it's a solid effort through and through, is the consistent build up of tension as the night rapidly spirals out of control and the reality of the situation is eventually made clear.

The movie was remade as "Quarantine" the following year with an American cast that included Jennifer Carpenter (who has also done excellent work in "The Exorcism Of Emily Rose" and Showtime's "Dexter" in the role of the lead reporter.  It was a decent remake, but in this case you would be well-suited with the original.

Tomorrow I hope to go a little brain dead with one of the first movies that was done by one of the first lords of Nerdom.  See you then!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Day 10: The Monster Squad (1987)





A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 10: The Monster Squad (1987)

There are many movies that played a key defining role in my youth.  For some strange reason, Corey Feldman made appearances in most of them ("The Goonies", "Stand By Me", "Gremlins", and the previously re-viewed for this column "The Lost Boys") but one that he didn't feature in, was Fred Dekker's "The Monster Squad".

This movie spoke to my heart as a youngster.  I grew up with a guy named Craig and he was one of the greatest friends you could have because he, just like me, knew that monsters were real.  They lurked in the drakest corners of our neighborhood, under our beds, and in the shadowy depths of the forest that lined my backyard.  We were positive that they were out there, and the determination of a young imagination is enough to make even the most translucent spectres become corporeal.

The beauty of "The Moster Squad" is that it brought back a sense of that magic.  In this movie, Universal Pictures classic monsters (the Wolfman, the Mummy, frankenstein's monster, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon) band together under the leadership of Dracula to bring evil back into the world.  A quick note, this is not a Universal picture, so the monsters do look slightly different.  Being set in the modern day (at the time anyway) only made it that much more radical.

With a tight and referential script by Shane Black (who would go on to become one of my favorite screenwriters), "The Monster Squad" tells the story of a group of monster-obsessed grade school kids who band together and use their knowledge of classic monster lore to combat Dracula and his evil minions.

The only problem, as with many '80s films, is that they need to find a virgin in order to enact the spell they discovered in an old Van Helsing journal they find.  Truly a classic '80s dillema, but one they are able to surpass in true Monster Squad fashion.

It is a whimsical story (through the gauze of nostalgia, at least) that shares many of the common themes and traits of my favorite films of the '80s.  The fact that it veers so close to my own personal version of how those days were for me makes it that much better.  Definitely worth a trip down memory lane for this one.

Tomorrow, I intend to wreck my eyes with a bit of a foreign language treasure.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day 9: Behind The Mask (2006)






A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 9: Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)


In a world where Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Voorhees are real, there are those who revere the ability of these lethal stalkers' ability to decimate their prey with fierce abandon.  Perhaps their biggest overall fan is Leslie Vernon, and "Behind The Mask" is his story.

The mid-2000s were a great time for subversive approaches to standard horror tactics.  I am surprised going through this list so far, that many of the films selected already happen to fall within this period.  And I can already think of a couple more that will be making appearances down the line.

"Behind the Mask" is documentary-style film that tracks Leslie Vernon's rise as the next great "killer".  Nathan Baesel, who portrays Vernon in the film, has an easy-going delivery that helps engage us in the process of becoming "one of the greats".  What ensues is a flawed, but fun look at the tropes of the slasher genre.

As the documentary crew follows Vernon, he gives them insight into the process of developing the right mythology, proper victim stalking etiquette, and the art of preparation.  Vernon jovially outlines the importance of cardio because without it you can't "do that whole walking while everyone else is running like hell thing", and shows off a home library that contains everything from Grey's Anatomy, to books about magic.

This is not a scary movie, but it is an extremely entertaining disection of the slasher-film genre and the myriad character archetypes that go with them.  The major flaw in the film is the suspension of belief required to buy in to the "documentary" crew playing such a complicit role in the proceedings, especially since some of the bigger action beats shift towards a more Hollywood, multi-camera shooting style.

I remember this being a fun movie, and it was.  Again, not without its flaws, but a decent way to pass a night on the way to Day 10, where I will be taking a trip back in time to kick the wolfman in the gnards!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Day 8: The Blair Witch Project (1999)


A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 8: The Blair Witch Project (1999)

When I first saw "The Blair Witch Project" it was in a small theatre in Burnham-On-Sea, Somerset, England.  Many of my English friends did not find it scary...

The beauty of "The Blair Witch Project" (aside from the extremely successful viral marketing campaign that helped make it the most successful independent movie of all-time) is the fact that things are never really clear as to what is actually happening.  The majority of the film focusses on a group of sometimes annoying characters trying to shoot a student film.

Once they become lost in the wilds around Burkittsville, things become considerably creepier, and it constantly escalates from small piles of stones, to eerie stick figures hanging in the trees, to things that literally go bump in the night, to packages delivered to the front of their tent during the night.

Where "The Blair Witch" succeeds best is in creating a sense of dread based almost solely around the unseen, and not a perceivable monster or creature.

What always creeped me out the most about this movie is the fact that I knew what the characters were feeling.  Not with the witch obviously, but being lost in the woods is one of the worst feelings you can have.  Being in the depths of a forest at night can be a scary experience by default:  the unfamiliar noises, the creaks, the snapping sounds in the distance...

It is easy to convince yourself that there is something out there with you, maybe even a twisted bitch of a witch tracking you through the darkness, but almost every time, you can pretty much guarantee that it was nothing more savage than a squirrel or chickadee.

The psychological breakdown of the characters, and eventual denouement in the cabin seals the deal, but to me, the true horror of this film is the uncertainty that comes from being turned around in the wilderness.  The characters might not be the most sympathetic, but you can easily place yourself in their shoes and start to feel the terror they go through (unless you are from England and have never been in a situation such as Heather, Mike, and Josh experience in the wooded wilds of Burkitsville, Maryland.

Spend some time in the woods at night, but before you do, make sure you check out this innovative take on urban legends...

Tomorrow, I plan to take a peak behind the scenes of what it takes to become a legendary serial killer.

Day 7: The Lost Boys (1987)



A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 7: The Lost Boys (1987)

"What, you don't like rice?  Tell me Michael, how can a billion Chinese people be wrong?"

That is one of the many quotable lines from Joel Schumacher's "The Lost Boys", a movie that I have easily seen over 100 times.   This is definitely a movie of its time, a product of the neon '80s.  There are fashion disasters that abound in this film, but it is also easy to look beyond the superficial elements of the time to see a solid action horror hybrid film that oozes charm.

When Sam (Corey Haim) and Michael (Jason Patric) move from their Arizona home to Santa Clara, California, the murder capital of the world, things quickly go from the bad of So-Cal surf culture circa 1987, to worse when Michael falls in with a group of dirt bike riding punks run by the charismatic David (Kiefer Sutherland).

The story plays pretty loose with established vampire lore of the time, but when Sam meets Edgar and Allan Frog (Corey Feldman and Jameson Newlander) at a local comic book store, they make it clear that Santa Clara has a bigger problem than missing people: Vampires.

This movie borrows its title from "Peter Pan", and it is an apt metaphor.  David and the other "lost boys" band together as an odd little family with the beautiful Star, and her young ward Laddie.  The fact that the boys are vampires is secondary.

One of the greatest charms of "The Lost Boys" is the earnest delivery of its cast.  Many of them went on to become well-known names in Hollywood and beyond, but for many, especially with the younger cast, this was one of their first big exposures.

"The Lost Boys" is an excellent romp, and one of the brighter spots in the mid to late '80s horror revival.  With vibrant characters, a well told story, and a wealth of quotable lines, it is a brilliant example of how vampires are much better when they don't sparkle, and that taking a subversive approach to traditional stories often results in above-average results.

As a quick aside, the soundtrack is one that still stands the test of time.  Maybe not the greased up saxophony of Tim Capello's "I Still Believe", but Gerard McMann's "Cry Little Sister" is still an excellent song.

Tomorrow I plan to get lost in the woods, and a web of viral marketing.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Day 6: The Descent (2005)


A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 6: The Descent (2005)

It all starts with a cabin in the woods.  The setting of the scene is familiar: a group of women head out into the wilderness for a weekend away, only to have things go horribly, horribly wrong.  The big difference with Neil Marshall's 2005 film "The Descent" is that the entire group is made up of adrenaline junkie women who have planned the escape in order to do some old-fashioned spelunking.

The underground setting that makes up the bilk of "The Descent"'s running time is a big part of the terror that the movie is able to so effortlessly convey.  Everything is filmed in a very tight and claustrophobic manner and it is very easy to forget that you are not in fact there, deep underground, with those women.

"The Descent" is an extremely claustrophobic movie.  I remember watching it with a few friends when it first came out, and we all marvelled at the intense build up of dread that was maintained throughout the film.

It isn't just the peril of natural dangers like cave-ins or becoming lost either.  The women soon discover (as tends to happen in movies such as this) that they are not the only ones wandering the unmapped network of caverns.

There is a palpable sense of dread that builds throughout this movie, one that literally inches you ever closer to the edge of whatever seat you happen to be watching from.  The story itself is fairly simple, but Marshall's execution manages to elevate beyond the typical genre trappings of the stalker and the stalked type of horror we all know.

If you have not yet seen this movie, do yourself a favor.  There is a sequel out now, but I have yet to see it.  One day for sure, but for now, I am content knowing that "The Descent" remains a perfect trip into hell.

Tomorrow, I am going back to the '80s to grease myself up for some boardwalk saxophone action in one of my all-time favorites.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Day 5: Slither (2006)



A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 5: Slither (2006)

The "invaders from space" movie is one that has remained just as popular over the years as the slasher, vampire, werewolf and zombie genres.  Originally done as allegories for communism and the dangers of the nuclear age, the movies reamined popular throughout the '50s and '60s especially.

When I first heard of "Slither", I was intrigued: a space invaders zombie film from James Gunn, a guy who until that point had mostly operated under the shingle of Lloyd Kaufman's "Troma Pictures" shingle.  The fact that it starred Nathan Fillion (who at that point I was already a huge fan of thanks to his work in Joss Whedon's "Firefly" and "Serenity") as Sherrif Bill Pardy made it that much more tantalizing.

The movie is definitely an homage to those alien invasion movies from the past, but it is also a film that proudly replicates writer and director Gunn's roots in the "Troma" world.  It is comedic, and crass, and vulgarly disgusting, and it is that fusion of elements that makes this such a fun movie.

With a cast that also includes Elizabeth Banks, Gregg Henry, and Michael Rooker as Grant Grant, the first infected, the film delivers a surprisingly tight story and some excellent practical special effects (that are augmented by non-intrusive CGI).

This is a blast of a movie that is high on laughs, as well as a few chills.  Gunn had written the script for Zack Snyder's surprisingly effective "Dawn of the Dead" remake two years earlier, and this proved to be a more than suitable follow up.

Nathan Fillion's typical charisma and deadpan delivery are the real draws, but the story and effects help reinforce a surprisingly effective body-horror film.  Definintely worth a view.

Tomorrow, I plan to descend into a deep, dark, and terrifying place.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 4: Shaun of the Dead (2004)



Day Four: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 4: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

I might not be a fan of the term "Zom-Rom-Com", but I am a huge fan of this movie.  For year's, the zombie genre had devolved into echoes of George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead", and none of them had the same impact that Romero's seminal black and white effort from 1968 had on the horror community.

What Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright got right with "Shaun of the Dead" was that they chose a different approach when they created what could best be described as a loving tribute to the films that Romero had created up to that point.  Romero himself was such a fan, that he cast Pegg and Wright as zombies in 2005's "Land of the Dead", his first return to the zombie genre he created since "Day of the Dead" in 1985.

"Shaun of the Dead" is a loving tribute, but it is also a movie that can stand tall on proud on its own two shambling feet.  Pegg and Wright wear their hearts on their sleeves throughout, but at no point does Shaun ever feel like just a comedy with zombies.

This is a movie with strong characters who are motivated by real-life situations.  The fact that it takes place during a zombie apocalypse is almost secondary, although it does allow for the conventions of the genre to be gently prodded and mocked throughout the duration of the story.

"Shaun of the Dead" is a film I could watch on a almost daily basis.  It is tender, frightening, and hilarious in equal measures.  This movie holds a special place in my life, and a special place in my "oh crap it's Halloween and I don't have a costume so I guess I will just go as Shaun again" costume repertoire.

Tomorrow's selection is another twisted version of classic Hollywood fare that will leave you squirming in your seat.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Day 3: An American Werewolf in London (1981)


Day Three: An American Werewolf in London (1981)

A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 3: An American Werewolf in London (1981)

"An American Werewolf in London" came out when I was six-years-old and while I didn't see it then, when I eventually did, it changed the way I viewed horror movies.  As a film, it was entertaining and terrifying in equal measures.

David Naughton's David Kessler is the titular character of the piece, and the early scenes between him and Griffin Dunne's Jack Goodman were realistic, and sympathetic characters who played excellent hosts as we were introduced to the basics of the story, and the idiosyncratic characters who populated "The Slaughtered Lamb" pub.

Of course, things quickly turn south for the two friends as they venture off the rainy roads and into the moors of Northern England where they are subjected to a horrific attack.  Jack does not survive, but his character does make repeat visits throughout the film, each time in a greater state of disrepair.

The makeup effects used for Jack's slow degradation are some of the best ever, as is the werewolf transformation that David goes through.  In fact, the makeup effects were so stunning, that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences created a whole new makeup category in the Academy Awards to celebrate Rick Baker's stunning work.

Written and directed by John Landis, "An American Werewolf in London" paved the way for the wide range of witty and horrific films that would soon follow; films that blended realistic characters and dialogue, with humour and horror.  It also created a resurgence for the 'werewolf' genre.

In 1997, a horrible CGI sequel set in Paris was released.  Avoid it.  There is a reason why the original is still widely regarded as one of the all-time great horror movies.  If you have yet to see it, you should stop delaying.  This movie will have you laughing and wincing from start to end.

Tomorrow, we will take a look at a more recent film that takes many cues from this godfather of modern horror.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day 2: Dracula (1931)


Day Two: Dracula (1931)

A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...

October 2:  Dracula (1931)

For day two, I decided to did through the vaults and go all the way back to one of the true originals.  Tod Browning's "Dracula" practically defines horror iconography, from the rich Gothic sets, to the brilliantly defining work of Bela Lugosi as the eerie and commanding Count Dracula.

This film, and James Whale's "Frankenstein" from the same year became the foundation of Universal Picture's classic monsters, a roster that would grow to include "The Wolfman", "The Mummy", "The Creature From The Black Lagoon", "The Phantom of The Opera", "The Invisible Man", and a whole slew of sequels over the year's (as well as the inevitable remakes and re imaginings in more recent years).

The original "Dracula" is a product of its times, but the Gothic imagery and timeless nature of Bram Stoker's original tale have cemented it as a timeless classic, one that has been spoofed, parodied, and imitated to unprecedented levels over the years.

While not the original telling of the story (that honour belongs to F.W. Munau's equally ambient and effective "Nosferatu" from 1922), Browning's version remains one of the most popular horror films of all-time.

When people think of "Dracula", the image that comes to mind is always one of Bela Lugosi's widow's peak and piercing gaze peering out from behind his cape; and his necklace.  Even the voice is intrinsically linked to that portrayal:  "I vant to suck your blood."

The Universal Classics defined what horror would mean to generations of "horror" lovers, and they did so in a way that defined the genre.  It is always good to revisit the classics...

Tomorrow, we will take focus on at the moon.  It will be a howl!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Day 1: Halloween (1978)





Day One: Halloween (1978)

A Month of Horror

I have always wanted to do a marathon of "HORROR" throughout the month of October, one where I would revisit a new horror movie every day from the first to the thirty-first.  I will revisit the classics as well as new entries into the canon.  There are many movies that define this time of year, and I hope to showcase 31 of them this month...


October 1:  Halloween (1978)

Once upon a time, this was a notorious and scandalous movie.  It is widely credited as the birth of the "slasher" genre (although Bob Clark's "Black Christmas" beat it to the punch by 4 years).  John carpenter's "Halloween" was a unique production for its time, mostly due to the fact that the the antagonist, Michael Myers, was both an unstoppable force, and an unknown quantity, whose only goal was to kill.

Although fairly tame by modern standards, "Halloween" truly did redefine the horror movie genre; and it did so by defining what would become known as the "slasher" genre. Without this one movie, it is quite likely that there would not be the wide range of Hollywood killers that exist today.  It is quite likely that there would at the very least be no Jason and no Freddy if Michael Myers hadn't first arrived on the scene to leave a wake of carnage in his silent path...

The twisted beauty of Carpenter's original Halloween is that Michael Myers was a normal kid, from a normal family, who just so happened to flip a switch on Halloween night and become a crazed killler.  There is no reason behind it, no need for explanation.  There are two protagonists in the movie, Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode, and Donald Pleasance's Sam Loomis.  It is Pleasance's psychiatrist character that brings us closest to an explanation as he refers to Myers throughout as "The Evil".

Rob Zombie missed the point with his remake by turning young Michael Myers into a twisted kid from a broken family.  Michael Myers is a good kid from a good family; not a pet-killing metalhead with a stripper mother, a whore sister, a drunken abuse stepfather, and a long line of bullies waiting for him at school.  By including a shopping list of "serial killer" stereotypes and tropes into the character's back story, Zombie removed the mystique from the unstoppable killer.

"Halloween" is an iconic film:  from the white "Shatner" masked killer, to the brilliant use of every inch of the full widescreen presentation, to the hauntingly simple synth score by the Bowling Green Orchestra (a.k.a. John Carpenter).

"Halloween" is, and always has been, one of my favourite movies.  I admit that this is due in no small part to my love of the season, and the holiday the movie borrows its name from, but the true affection I feel for the story hinges primarily on the incredible ratcheting of tension that builds up throughout the film.

This is a movie that helped define my love of what films were capable of doing.  It is a movie, a series of movies, that exist within the confines of one of my favourite times of year, and they wear the iconography of Halloween proudly.  Starting this project with "Halloween" seemed like the right choice, and the perfect way to set the scene for what is to come.

Tomorrow, I'll be sinking my teeth into one of the all-time classics...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Somerset News: September 2012


SOMERSET NEWS: SEPTEMBER 2012

The Huntsville Film North International Film Festival came to a close on September 22, and I was honoured to be in attendance on the closing day to present our short film "Missing".  For those of you who have been fortunate enough to attend the festival in the past, or even this year, it really is a well-organized and artist friendly event.

We were there for the first annual event in 2010, and were fortunate to take home the antler (the trophy bestowed upon winners) for our short film "The Lake" at that time.  This year, "Missing" did not afford us a repeat victory, but I was thrilled to see the award go to Lewis Hodgson for his film "Morning Zombies" - a film that featured cinematography by Patrick Gilbert, and a starring turn by none other than Kevin Hoffman as the lead zombie (both of whom contributed to "Missing" as well).  Congratulations again to all involved!

The Film North festival is one of my favorite to attend.  The organizers are extremely accommodating and hospitable, and it truly does provide an excellent opportunity to meet and engage with other film makers, both the professional and established, and the similarly situated up and comers.

The post-screening Q&A session featuring (from left to right):
Myself, Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Sheila McCarthy,
17-year-old Director Ben Brook, and Ken Cunningham.

Following our screening, was a Q&A session with the attending film makers, 17-year-old Ben Brook, with "Ostrichsized", and animator Ken Cunningham, with "Zen and the Art of Distraction" (Jim Calarco's "One Wish" also screened, but unfortunately he had to miss the Q&A).  Also in attendance was Lifetime Achievement Award Winner (and incredibly accomplished Canadian performer) Sheila McCarthy, whose outstanding breakthrough performance in "I've Heard The Mermaids Singing" screened during our showcase.  It's always nice to feel like part of the film community (even though I referred to myself as a "hobbyist" during the testimonial video I shot).

I am a film maker, and while I might have a hard time admitting it every now and then, it is something that I am most definitely proud of: when our first film won a cinematography award against an Imax movie; when we won our first International award; and every time our work is accepted and acknowledged by people of discriminating taste - every one of those moments justifies my hobby and makes it worth the crazy amounts of effort that we put in to each production.

So with all the excitement, positive feedback, and networking of the Film North festival, what could possibly be next?

Planning in progress for the weekend shoot.

Up next on the agenda, is a new shoot this weekend on a project called "How To Save A Life".  I wanted to shoot this about a year ago, but I am glad that plans fell through (and then again in the Spring, and the Summer) because we are back to the right time of year for this particular piece.

It's going to be an ambitious shoot, and a quick one with any luck, but I have been thinking about it all week and it is shaping into a solid piece - if the weather holds out.

I'll have an update ready sometime next week.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Story-A-Day #428: Pathways


PATHWAYS

It's not like it used to be.  These pathways used to be wider, and much easier to navigate.  Now they are overgrown, crowded with limbs, and leaves, and other obstructions that have grown up over time.

When I was younger, these pathways were my paradise.  They meandered through the forest behind my parents home and directed me to new adventures, new secrets waiting to be discovered.  I would wander these pathways and expect the unknown on an almost daily basis.

Sometimes I would discover a pond, and plumb its depths for hidden treasures: maybe a painted turtle, or a slime encrusted plastic boat left behind by some other wayward wanderer.  Other times I would stumble across an old fort or cabin and pretend that it was mine; a secret hideout where I would defend myself with a wooden sword from an onslaught of deadly foes.

I had many great times exploring those forgotten trails, seeking out new adventures both on, and off the path.  But that was a long time ago, decades.

Today, I stare up the steep incline and know that most of what I once marvelled at would be gone, reclaimed by the nature from whence it first sprouted.  I know that those ponds would be long since dried up; the forts and cabins, long since collapsed upon themselves.

I start up the trail regardless, knowing that those shining moments from my past would have long since faded, but that there might be new discoveries to be found.  Surely the new generations of kids could not be so glued to their televisions and gaming systems that they had not built their own hidden refuges?  Surely nature had not continued to grow and develop in weird and marvelous ways?

The strangest thing about life is that it is full of pathways.  Some of them become worn and familiar as we wander their ways throughout life.  Others become regrets, the path left unexplored that could have resulted in so much more, or less, than what we know about life today.

The great thing about pathways is that they are yours to be either taken, or ignored.  Sometimes you choose the right pathways, and sometimes you take the long way to get to where you need to go.

These may have been the pathways of my youth, but sometimes it is good to return to the well of nostalgia to see if there might not be more to learn, more to be told, more to be discovered.  Sometimes it is just nice to know that childhood is what it was, and remains what it always will be: a past lived to its fullest.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Story-A-Day #427: Rainbow's End


RAINBOW'S END

Sometimes you just have to go for it.  That's what her parents had always told her.  They wanted her to be an achiever, a go-getter; someone who would not take no for an answer.  For the most part, it had worked as well.  She was not afraid to take risks, and would always push hard to achieve her goals.

That constant strive for excellence had brought her to a few unique realizations about her decision-making process.  Sometimes, you had to look at the bigger picture.  Sometimes, you had to look beyond the normal to try to figure out how to achieve your goals and dreams.

It was a warm Wednesday afternoon in September, and she was out in her backyard watering the garden.  As she wafted the gentle mist from the hose back and forth across the flowers, plants, and wooden slat fence, she noticed a rainbow slowly ebbing in and out of sight.  It was like a dream: there, then gone, then back again, with each passing sweep of the hose.

It dawned on her then, that a rainbow is a rainbow, so maybe she should start digging.

Sometimes you just have to go for it.

She noted the spot where the proverbial end of the rainbow would be and ran off to grab a shovel.  When she returned, she placed the tip into the moist grass, and used the flat base of her sandal to help wiggle the shovel into the soft earth.  She levered the first scoop up and dumped it nearby, then quickly angled in for another.

She had dumped out a few loads before something unexpected happened.  She hit something solid.  She got down on her hands and knees and slowly unearthed the treasure.  Once it was clear of the earth, she found a smile spreading across her face, a warm and glowing smile that was not unlike the morning sun peeking up over the horizon.

It was no pot of gold.  But it was actually better; a small tin coffee tin, the brand still distinguishable under the grime of dirt and time.

She brought the container into the house and sat down at the dining room table where she popped the lid.  The container contained a small treasure trove of notes and nick knacks from a past resident of the house.  Diary entries and small porcelain figures filled the tin, and they were in remarkably good condition.  It was no pot of gold, but it was a fascinating representation of days, and people, long since past...

Sometimes you just have to go for it.

Sometimes you have to seek out the rainbow's end.