Archive for October, 2020

Cronos (1993)/Ganja & Hess (1973)/The Lost Boys (1987)

October 31, 2020

Ganja and Hess (1973)

The first thing I noticed was how different a tone this movie has. This is one of the first black horror movies and it shows right away. It is not just a reskinned white horror movie but instead reflects the real culture. The music really works for the movie as well. They use a lot of Christian spiritual songs but the recording sounds like it was made in an empty church. . That means you get all of the cool echoes and imperfections and it sounds so lonely. This is mixed in with what is presented as African music with really surreal reverb added. This reverb is used throughout and it gives a lot of moments a very eerie and otherworldly feeling. The blood is very vivid and almost artistic. They definitely go all in on showing a feeding.

The movie stars Duane Jones (who also starred in Night of the Living Dead) as Hess and he really should have been something bigger. He is such a commanding character here and a calming presence at times. His performance is so real and raw that he instantly commands any scene he is in. Marlene Clark plays Ganja and she is brassy and instantly likable. She is a force of nature from word one. Writer/Director Bill Gunn plays an absolute nutcase who is disturbing in a very subdued and unnerving way. There is also a preacher played by Sam Waymon, not your usual pastor in a horror movie. He is reasonable and empathetic and so charismatic.

Overall, I really liked the movie. It certainly has some production flaws but it leans into those flaws and makes them into strengths. The story feels different from other vampire stories that I have seen though some familiar elements are there.

The Lost Boys (1987)

The first thing I noticed was the interesting setting and character design of the movie. I guess it is supposed to be a tourist town in the mid-Eighties with a mashup of Goth, Punk, and New Wave styles with a little seaside mixed in. It makes it feel like the movie is taking place in a post-apocalyptic future. I really liked the special effects of the movie. The practical special effects are really fun and often really destructive. Of course, it is the Eighties so there is a metric ton of dry ice. The blood effects are really well done (apparently they put glitter in the blood). I always love seeing different takes on vampiric powers. This movie had some interesting takes on what a vampire is and I loved it. It is somewhat similar to Fright Night but also had some curveballs in there. The soundtrack is strong in this movie with a lot of great rock songs.

The cast is huge for the Eighties, some who went on to big careers and some who seemed to disappear with the turning of the decade. The movie stars Corey Haim and Jason Patric as two kids whose family just moved into town. They run afoul of a strange vampire biker gang headed up by Keifer Sutherland and including Alex Winter, Brooke McCarter and Billy Wirth. Jami Gertz plays the loan major female character, caught up with the gang. Haim is aided by two strange brothers played by Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander. Sutherland is definitely a stand out as he plays a mix of a smirking hooligan and a cult leader. Haim is a plucky hero who is kind of funny and definitely likable. Feldman is totally weird and I immediately loved his character. Patric plays his character as too cool but I loved his vulnerability.

Overall, I really liked this movie for being a goofball horror movie. The cast is fantastic for what this movie needed to be. It was not very scary at all but it had a lot of great horror elements and a killer aesthetic. I recommend it.

Cronos (1993)

The first thing I noticed was the great visuals of Guillermo del Toro. He is a master at creating spooky and otherworldly imagery, sometimes when something is supposed to be mundane. The movie has a lot to do with clockwork. Clockwork and machinery combined with biology can be very creepy. Here it is very creepy and involves a lot of medical-related horror and bloodshed. The gore is very believable and particularly nasty-looking although it is not plentiful. There are also insects, a trademark of Del Toro’s work. The clockwork and the insects are definitely displayed similarly creating a very creepy bit of imagery. It is hard to explain and you just have to see it for yourself. Every shot is framed so well and paints an absolute picture. It creates its own mythology and style and is nothing like most vampire movies.

The movie stars Federico Luppi, an old kindly man who stumbles onto something crazy and frightening and does not know how to handle it. He is so good at playing a deeply disturbed human being, a man suffering a breakdown. There is also the awesome and charismatic Ron Perlman in this who would go on to partner with Del Toro many times. He has such a brash arrogance to him but he is impossible not to like somehow. The villain is played by Claudio Brook and he is great at being a wealthy, unfeeling man. Tamara Shanath plays the granddaughter of Luppi who is precocious and says so much without words.

Overall, I really loved this film. It felt less like a horror movie than a dark fantasy movie. It definitely had its scary and creepy moments, though. You can see Del Toro’s fingerprints all over this movie with motifs and imagery he would go on to use in other movies. This was the first full film that Del Toro made and is part of a loose trilogy of Spanish language movies he made. I definitely recommend this movie.


You Should Have Left (2020)

October 30, 2020

The scariest thing about the trailer and what I know about the movie going into it is the age gap between Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried. Bacon’s character is supposed to be 61-years-old and Seyfried’s character is supposed to be 34-years-old. That’s a titanic age gap of 27 years, almost three decades. An age gap between romantic partners was a huge thing for as long as I have lived and, most likely, long before. However, people are starting to wake up to that maybe not being such a good thing. When people are older, the age gap is not as big of a deal. However, when one side of the relationship is so young, it becomes a much bigger deal. The major thing is the power imbalance. For example, a 60-year-old man is going to have much better finances than a 30-year-old woman. That gives the man quite a bit of power financially over his partner. Not to mention if you are dating somebody your dad’s age, there is power in that as well. In such a relationship, a man can really dominate the woman and make her powerless.

The basic premise of this movie reminds me of several creepypastas from back in the day when the Internet was younger. For those who do not know, creepypasta are scary stories posted on the Internet. The term comes from the slang term “copypasta” which is a block of text copied and pasted over and over on the web but these are scary stories instead. Back then, it was easy to get caught up in these stories and believe that they might be real. One story I remember vividly was very similar to the basic premise of this movie. The story was called The Dionaea House and it was about a mysterious house that preys on human beings, either killing them or hollowing them out and making them into lures to attract more people to the house. The house does not exist in one place and lies in wait like its namesake, the venus flytrap. This story is based on a novella as these sorts of stories have become more and more mainstream these days.

The first thing I noticed is the surreal kind of horror that I definitely expected from the trailers but not quite how I expected. The special effects are interesting. I include stunts in with special effects because there are some really impressive-looking shots in the opening scenes that were anxiety-inducing. The architecture of the house is incredibly interesting. Apparently, it was shot in a sort of modern-day monastery. It definitely shows as it feels like it is devoid of life and warmth and feels labyrinthine. They captured the feel of a big, empty house and it reminded me of my mom’s house with too many electrical switches. Still, they easily made the house feel like another character in the movie. The camera work is great, making a lot of the film feel claustrophobic even in wide-open spaces if that makes sense.

Kevin Bacon is a really good actor and he is great here as an insecure older man with a famous wife. Bacon just gets better as he ages and he plays gruff and discontent really well. However, his character often does not really feel invested in the movie. Amanda Seyfried is an actress that I have loved since Veronica Mars. She is great at being feisty and funny and full of energy, a contrast to Bacon. Avery Tiiu Essex plays their daughter and she is precocious and very good at being the child in distress. There is another role in the movie that I do not want to spoil but it is the creepiest part of the movie. The acting is very good as we get a family acting very much like a family. We also get a lot of the realism of a strained marriage.

Overall, this was an OK movie. It was not very thrilling nor was it extremely thought-provoking. From my own personal history, I really do not like movies about marital strife especially with children involved. There is some good existential horror but I feel like it does not really go anywhere. I do not recommend this movie unless the trailer interested you.

Media Update 10/29/2020

October 29, 2020

Brainscan (1994)

This movie is about a teenager who is obsessed with horror and kind of afloat in life with bad grades and a carefree attitude. His only real friend tells him about a new video game being advertised in Fangoria. After popping it in, he gets sucked into a brand new gaming experience that may be way too real and he is suddenly lost. Edward Furlong plays the teen in question very early in his career and he does a good job of playing a loser teen who is suddenly sympathetic. The real attraction of the movie is the supernatural creature played by T. Ryder Smith and he is hilarious and genial. He feels similar to Beetlegeuse, Freddy, or Chucky the way he is so casually cruel with a twisted little smirk on his face. Amy Hargreaves plays the girl next door and she is very plucky. Horror legend Frank Langella plays the police detective who starts looking into things. Jamie Marsh plays the friend very much like Evil from Fright Night, that hyperactive weird kid that a lot of nerds had as a friend growing up. The movie is actually pretty anxiety-inducing but also has some real funny parts to it. I recommend this movie.

Arcade (1993)

This is a movie that had to go back and redo some of its effects because Disney threatened to sue based on their ownership of Tron. This is the more traditional plot of people get sucked into a video game. A brand new game (a learning computer) appears in an Arcade and it terrorizes a group of teens. What I found interesting was that this movie actually has “the girlfriend” as the hero instead of a guy. Megan Ward plays the main character and does not play video games but must for her life and the lives of her friends. Peter Billingsley plays her boyfriend’s best friend who is the only one left to support her. John de Lancie plays the negligent (and possibly evil) video game executive. The rest of the friends are a mish mash of teen actors including Seth Green of all people. The movie has really neat graphics that actually looks a bit like the virtual reality of the day and some of it looks like an FMV game from the same period. The game was more exciting than scary but definitely had some darkness to it. I recommend this movie.

Sequence Break

This was nowhere near the movie I thought it would be but was far more fascinating. This movie is classified as a Horror/Romance/Science Fiction story which does not begin to describe how strange this movie is. This movie feels a lot like a David Cronenberg movie with weird techno-organic body horror which feels both horrific and oddly sexual. Chase Williamson plays an arcade machine repair guy who is lost in life and socially awkward. Fabianne Therese plays a quirky young woman who suddenly appears to be a love interest. John Dinan plays a strange man who seems to be in on a terrifying secret. One half of the movie is a traditional romantic comedy while the rest is just very strange. The mix left me with no idea what might happen next which was exciting. I recommend this movie but be warned that it is weird.

Music of the Week:

Primus – Welcome To This World

Matt Wegner – FEAR

Diamanda Galas- Dancing in the Dark

Bad Wolves – Zombie

Demogoroth Satanum – The Kingdom Ov Hell

Weekly Update:
This week’s theme is “If You Die in the Game…”
I watched more Watcher videos
I watched more The Boys Season 1
I started watching Harley Quinn Season 2
I started watching Doctor Who Season 11
I watched Critters 2: The Main Course
I watched Tremors: Shrieker Island
I finished watching The Vow Season 1
I have watched a lot of Twitch and YouTube
I have started watching a lot of Lindsay Ellis videos

Lord of Illusions (1995)

October 28, 2020

I have been reading and watching things about cults a lot more lately. Cults are absolutely terrifying whether they worship Satan, Cthulhu, or just a single man. For example, the cult of NXIVM was one of psychobabble which caused each member to subvert the self in service to the founder. There was also a cult within a cult called DOS (Dominus Obsequious Sororium or Dominance Over Women) which created literal sex slaves out of women. Scientology has long been described as a cult that worships author L Ron Hubbard and dominated by David Miscavige. Of course, the above cults are dangerous but have not proven to have been directly responsible for deaths. When I was a teenager, I learned about the Heaven’s Gate cult which resulted in mass suicide of all of its members. This is similar to the Jonestown cult which similarly led to mass suicide. Then there are the actively dangerous cults like the Manson Family which gleefully murdered people in California. We tend not to hear about these cults until something bad has happened and then it is often too late.

The best example I can think of that combines stage magic with horror is, of course, Alice Cooper concerts. During his tours he would create a lot of set pieces and stunts that required hiring magicians as consultants. One of those magicians was the recent deceased James Randi, a guy I have looked up to since I was a teen. However, the connection kind of extends past that. Stage magic and horror are eternally entwined through the use of practical effects. Anytime you are presenting something in person or on film that is gruesome and especially if it looks fatal, it is basically stage magic. Haunted houses in particular have to use a lot of tricks similar to stage magic shows in order to provide advanced scares. The art of the illusion is integral to the visuals of horror and making our minds think that horrible things are happening.

The first thing I noticed was the excellent set design. In the first scene we see a twisted junkyard-like setting that really comes alive. The setting at once speaks of dark magic and cults and gangs. There are a lot of set pieces that are absolutely astonishing in their design. The special effects are pretty neat as one would expect in a movie with the word “illusion” in the title. There are some very real looking body horror effects and other digital effects that look very well-done. The movie does a really good job at making magic and horror both special and a part of everyday life. Characters know it exists but it is still something to be very wary of. The costume and character design really make people look otherworldly. There is a lot of gore from the start and it is all very well done. The movie also features a visit to the Magic Castle in Los Angeles.

The hero of the movie is Scott Bakula who is so good at playing characters who are capable of both light comedy and dark drama. In this, he is a hard-boiled private detective with an eye for the occult. Famke Janssen plays a wealthy woman caught up in a chaotic war that she never wanted but . Kevin O’Connor plays a stage magician and Janssen’s husband who just may be something more. Daniel von Bargen plays the villain, a truly monstrous cult leader and his performance is definitely unhinged. There are plenty of great character actors in the underworld that Bakula delves that definitely make for a fun ensemble cast.

Overall, I really loved this movie as a dark horror/fantasy story. It is basically a film noir story with horror and fantasy elements in it. It is a fun, dark story with an interesting mystery and bloody deaths.

The Golem (2018)

October 26, 2020

The golem is probably the most famous Jewish folktale figure when it comes to monsters and magic. It dates back to the Talmud, the earliest written copy of which was made in 1342 which gives it quite a bit of seniority amongst other monster tales. According to the Talmud, Adam (the first man) was golem before God made him into a human. Golems are animated husks of mud which do not have souls, speech, or free will. Throughout history, the tale of the golems grew and was expanded upon. Jewish mystics claimed that once a golem was formed, it could be given life and animation by inscribing on its forehead a “name of God”. If that inscription was erased, the Golem would cease to be. A few whispers of golems went through history but the first substantial story was The Golem of Chelm. In that account, a Rabbi Eliyahu brought a golem to life to do heavy labor. The most famous account is the Golem of Prague wherein Judah Loew ben Bezalel raised a golem to protect the ghettos of Prague from attacks. There are even stories of that golem rising again to fight Nazis.

It is a tale we have heard often since reflected in different ways. One of the big things about the tale of the golem is hubris. Somebody creates the golem with good intentions but must defeat the golem when it becomes dangerous. Frankenstein is a great secular example of this. In Mary Shelley’s book, the Monster is quite intelligent. However, in film adaptations for decades, the Monster was portrayed as basically a flesh golem. It is a mindless, unstoppable killer. A lot of robot horror and science fiction also follows this formula. The tales of Isaac Asimov talk about how humans created robots and end up being very wary or afraid of them. Unleashing something dangerous that can move around freely but does not have a conscience or restraint is very scary. In a certain way, a real-life example is artificial intelligence which can easily get out of control while just “following orders”.

The first thing I noticed was how good the special effects are. The first look at a golem is really special and they tease it by leaving it in shadow at first. The camera effects are really good from the beginning with my favorite play of light and shadow. They also use camera focus in ways that I was unfamiliar with. There is some gore at first but not a lot as a lot of it we are left to imagine it. Of course, that gore escalates as the movie goes on giving it more and more of an impact as the movie continues. This is a simple little horror movie and does not use many elaborate or flashy special effects. What does appear suits the film perfectly as a slow burn horror movie until it explodes into chaos.

Hani Furstenberg plays the hero of the movie and she is very likable and strong-willed. Her husband is played by Ishai Golan and he is gruff but likable in his way. The town Rabbi is played by Lenny Ravitz and I found his voice is instantly strong and interesting. However, he is also easy to dislike. The movie’s villain is played by Aleksey Tritenko, a sadistic yet relatable Russian enemy to a Jewish people. The titular character is played by Kirill Cernyakov and he does a great job at being a creepy little kid. His absolute silence and stillness are captivating and unnerving. Much of the acting is subdued and there is a lot of acting that is done silently. Furstenberg in particular is really good at saying everything she needs to with just a look.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It felt like a grounded version of a fairytale but also with a tinge of the old Universal horror movies. The drama of the humans drove the drama of the monster and not the other way around. It made for an interesting tale about grief and conflict while also being a good horror movie.

Aftershocks: Dark Carnival Pt. 4

October 24, 2020

Frustrated laughter rang out over the public address system. “You know what? I shouldn’t have left all of this to my idiot friends,” Killjoy said. “I’m motherfucking Killjoy. Time to get my hands dirty.” A spotlight went on and a twisted-looking clown jumped down from somewhere and landed hard on his feet. He was carrying a huge hammer which grew as he flexed it. He chuckled.

“Finally,” Lydia said. “We were getting tired of your voice.”

“Ha ha,” Killjoy said with a withering glare. “You’re so funny. I’m gonna have so much fun squashing your skull, killing a couple dozen people, and then dragging little Nancy back to Hell with me.”

“We keep hearing that same line,” Nancy said. “You’re not getting an opening night and my dad is going to be disappointed again. I hope he punishes you.”

“Big words,” Killjoy said. “It’s hammer time!” He raised the hammer high and brought it down and it shook the Earth beneath their feet. The three struggled to keep their footing as Killjoy lunged forward. He suddenly disappeared midstep. He reappeared behind them and Rob fired his shotgun into the clown point blank. Killjoy shrugged off the blow and laughed. He seemed to concentrate and his cheeks slowly filled with something.

“Run!” Lydia said and the three scrambled for cover.

Killjoy started to spray shotgun shot from his mouth, the pellets slamming into everything in the immediate area. Everybody had managed to find cover and barely avoided being maimed by their own ordinance. Killjoy laughed again and stalked toward them with his hammer. He swiped the hammer and smashed apart the cart that Lydia was hiding behind.

“Time to make some goth juice,” Killjoy said with a chuckle. “You know who is going to be so jealous.” He raised the hammer.

“Hey Killjoy?” Lydia said with a smile.

“What?” Killjoy asked, frustrated.

“Ice to meet you,” she said with a gesture.

Ice quickly formed under Killjoy’s feet and he started to slip and slide uncontrollably, finding it hard to keep his balance but not falling.

“That was terrible!” Killjoy said. “Leave the jokes to me, kid.”

The ice spread out in a line. Rob ran at Killjoy and shoved him as hard as he could, making the clown slide along the ice. Killjoy picked up speed and slammed right into Nancy’s outstretched claws. She was grinning happily. He was instantly impaled but did not die. Instead he started to squirm and try to get himself free. Just as Nancy withdrew her claws, Rob hit the back of Killjoy’s right knee and sent the clown sprawling to the ground.

“You’re the joke,” Rob said. ” and nobody’s laughing.”

As Killjoy writhed on the ground, Nancy grabbed up Killjoy’s hammer and held it out to Rob with a smile. Rob nodded and took it and raised it over his head. His invisible angel wings flashed into existence for a moment and then he brought the hammer down with a vengeance on Killjoy’s head. Nancy actually laughed and jumped up onto the hammer, driving it harder into the clown who vanished in a burst of confetti and hellfire.

The tent started to fall apart around them without Killjoy to hold it all together. The three of them ran toward the exit in a sprint and were left catching their breath in an empty parking lot.

“See?” Nancy said. “I told you clowns are funny.” The other two shook their heads but had to give Nancy a smile in return.

  • * *

Killjoy landed in Hell and clutched his head.

“The worst headache I’ve ever had,” Killjoy said. “Outside of that one hangover back in clown college.”

“Can’t you do anything wight?” Batty asked. “Now we’we stuck hewe again.”

“Lay off, Batty,” Killjoy said. “Can’t you see I’m tired. I don’t need nagging. Let’s just lay low so the King doesn’t get on our case.”

“You guys really screwed up,” a voice said from the shadows. “If you wanted Showtime, you should have gone with the master.”

“B..” Batty started to say before Killjoy clamped his hand over her mouth.

“You don’t work well with others,” Killjoy growled. “and you’re not a clown.”

Betelgeuse laughed. “I’m not a clown,” he agreed. “I’m the main event. My turn is coming and I’ll show you all what the ghost with the most can do.”

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

October 23, 2020

The practice of exorcism by the Catholic church has a long and frightening history. I say frightening not because I believe that they have ever driven out a demon or evil spirit but because of the cult-like behavior and dangerous treatment of the mentally ill. The Church in general is very good at preying on the insecurities of the people it has put under its care. They either believe or have made the populace believe that demons can possess human beings and they are the only people who can help. They pray over the affected person in the same way that a Sheriff or Justice of the Peace carrying out an eviction. The Catholic Church has performed the rites of exorcism since at least 1614 when the first guidelines were published. In recent years, the process has become less used and the Catholic church requires the afflicted to visit a medical professional. Still, it is fun to play pretend in television and movies.

As a rule, supernatural cases are pretty much never tried in Court. If they are tried, the judge who writes the opinion usually has to tiptoe around the existence of the supernatural. Because court cases are used as precedent for later cases, the Court really has to watch what it says in order to not cause an avalanche of crazy cases down the line. I have actually written about two cases on this blog, one which involved a haunted house and one where a guy tried to sue the Devil. The first did not actually adjudicate any ghosts but instead dealt with “haunted” as a descriptor when buying and selling real estate. The second was very tongue and cheek and was dismissed pretty quickly. I keep trying to look for weird court cases involving elements of the supernatural but so far a lot of them just have figurative language relating to the supernatural.

The first thing I noticed was how good the acting is. The opening scene is so full of drama and tension with very little dialogue. It shows good acting and direction if a room full of actors can say so much without saying much. Laura Linney plays the defense attorney and she is sharp and interesting from the get-go. The priest is played by Tom Wilkinson who is immediately engaging and likable. The prosecutor is played by Campbell Scott, a straight-shooter who I liked for his intelligence and faith in the system. Jennifer Carpenter plays the titular character and she is so good at playing a sunny teen but also so terrified and terrifying. This movie really speaks to the versatility of Carpenter. Her physical acting is definitely amazing. There are a bunch of other actors used as witnesses that do a great job of filling in the story with their own personalities which makes things feel more real.

The special effects are really good in the movie. They get a lot of mileage out of simple practical effects and chaotic camera angles. Reported signs of possession are often things people might view as mundane coincidences at first. Then things start to get freakier. The movie also gets some use out of digital effects, mostly for jump scare moments. The digital effects are striking but definitely not poorly done in my opinion although they can be a tad over the top in places. The effects made a creepy story a lot scarier than I thought it would be. Part of this was also the score of the movie which has a lot of great string music with long sustained notes that make even non-scary scenes more tense. There are also tricks they use in the mixing of the movie that create an uncomfortable feeling.

Overall, I found the movie to be very interesting and I liked it. It is an adaptation of a real court case in Germany that was dramatized for American audiences. The courtroom scenes were fascinating to watch because the actors were just so good. There were definitely a lot of scary scenes and I was impressed with their take on possession versus what I have seen in other movies.

Media Update 10/22/20

October 22, 2020

Host (2020)

I feel like this movie is the talk of the town lately and I had to watch this this week because it may never be this topical. For those who do not know, this is a horror movie done completely through the Video Conferencing platform Zoom. The movie is told in real time and is only about 53 minutes long which makes it the shortest thing I am reviewing this month. The plot of the movie is that a couple of friends have decided to get together via Zoom while quarantining in England. They decide to do a séance which unleashes all sorts of terror. The strength of the movie is the special effects which immediately make you doubt your own senses. A lot of neat practical effects and some digital ones are definitely on display here. The acting is great and the whole cast is on point and so believable with a main cast of seven (mostly women). It was so eerie to watch characters in a horror movie worrying about what we have all worried about for the last year. I definitely recommend this movie.

Monster Party (2018)

I feel like I have watched this movie a couple of times this year between this, Ready or Not, You’re Next, and The Hunt. Once again it is a movie about an outsider or outsiders who attend a party with people they do not know and have to fight for their lives. In this, three caterers are working at a house party that they did not understand and must now survive. The movie is non-stop, dark, and gory for its entirety. It feels very grindhouse as it was shot in only 17 days. The three leads (Sam Strike, Virginia Gardner, and Brandon Michael Hall) are all great. Erin Moriarty makes a great appearance as one of the family and I love her. A special shoutout goes to Robin Tunney, Julian McMahon, and Lance Reddick who really drove the movie along. The movie is absolutely crazy but definitely a fun time. I recommend this movie.

Night of the Demons (1988)

I had not watched this movie yet even though it is considered a classic and a foundational movie of 1980s horror. I had watched the 2009 remake which I did not really enjoy that much. This was different. This was great Eighties horror cheese. The plot is that a bunch of teenagers choose to party at an abandoned funeral parlor and awaken something horrible. On of the things this movie is known for is the performance by Linnea Quigley (a horror movie mainstay) who plays an excellent ditzy blonde. Amelia Kinkade plays a snarky goth girl and ends up being both scary and likable. Cathy Podewell plays the plucky heroine who is a bit naïve but has a good heart. I also really liked Alvin Alexis who plays the lone person of color. The movie is pure chaos and silly but it has a few good scares. I recommend it.

Music of the Week:

Ninja Sex Party – Thunder and Lightning

Feastie Boys – “What’s Fa Lunch?”

Carpenter Brut – Beware the Beast

Ryan Adams – Halloweenhead

King Diamond – Halloween

Weekly Update:
This week’s theme is “Party Time”
I watched more Watcher videos
I watched more Elementary Season 3
I watched more The Boys Season 1
I started watching The Vow Season 1
I watched The Inventor: Out for Blood
I finished Lovecraft Country Season 1
I have watched a lot of Twitch and YouTube

The Invisible Man (2020)

October 21, 2020

I cannot let this review pass without a reference to the movements recently to out abusers. I refer not only to the Me Too movement but also the more recent Speaking Out movement which involved a lot of entertainers telling their own stories including the world of pro-wrestling. These movements are important because the issue of sexual abuse in or out of a relationship is frightening. As a man, I am unlikely to experience it but what I have seen is that the experience of sexual abuse is very isolating. That isolation can break all semblance of hope and happiness while a person is often forced to smile through it. Many in such a relationship end up living in fear of the other person. Fear of what the other person could do, fear of upsetting them and getting it worse, and fear of the secret getting out and making things even worse. The only way to break that fear is for the public to start believing victims when they speak up.

I remember reading The Invisible Man as a kid during one summer. We did not read many horror, fantasy, or science fiction books in school so I always scoured the summer reading list for what I could find, eventually venturing from those guidelines. It was my summer of reading HG Wells books which is who wrote this particular book. The Invisible Man book was interesting because it felt like it was both Horror and Science Fiction. A scientist tries to perfect an invisibility serum but, of course, problems and chaos ensue. The book warns of how literal anonymity is dangerous because the power comes with too much temptation to go too far. Besides the invisibility there are no other fanciful themes or elements and everybody is forced to react to an invisible man.

The first thing I noticed was the incredible tension, ratcheted up tight from the very beginning. The use of silence really drives home what kind of movie this going to be from the first few seconds. This is a suspenseful horror movie and I’m almost afraid to breathe. Elisabeth Moss is so good at playing the vulnerable victim that I felt for her in the first few shots. You know her story from the look in her eyes. Aldis Hodge is great as Moss’ friend and protector, a charismatic good guy. Her estranged sister is played with stony solidness by Harriet Dyer. There is also a creepy lawyer played my Michael Dorman. Of course, there is the titular character himself played brilliantly by Oliver Jackson-Cohen. Shout out also to the brilliant stunt work in the movie.

The special effects are so good. They got really good at using practical effects and digital replacement of stuntmen. Apparently, sometimes there is a stuntman there, sometimes nothing is there, and sometimes it is the actor. The mixing of the styles really puts the viewer in the paranoid headspace of the victim. There is just no way to know when the character is there and when they are not since you cannot trust your eyes. The use of light and darkness in some places (always a favorite of mine) is so good here because they did not have to worry about lighting the villain. The tracking shots are particularly good in this a they make you feel that you are creeping around with the characters, pulling you into the story.

Overall, I really loved this movie. This is how you remake an old story with a new twist. They could not have picked a better Writer/Director than Leigh Whannell who had some experience with invisibility from the Paranormal Activity series. However, he has advanced by leaps and bounds since those days. He was able to apply quite a few of the tricks he learned while making Upgrade and continues to improve as a filmmaker. I recommend this movie so much.

Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)

October 19, 2020

When I saw the synopsis for this movie, my mind leapt back to a fascinating article I read a long time ago (the article came out in 1997 but I think I read it later). The article (linked here) was about how Miami homeless children had constructed their own folklore from the scraps of information they got on the streets. A mix of Christian mythology and pop culture, the folklore was well-circulated among the youngest of the homeless population. Their take on things is that God had fled Heaven due to a demon attack, leaving his angels to combat the demons on their own. The demons had found pathways from Heaven to Earth and the Angels had been forced to follow to keep the battle going. The tale mirrors life on the streets for a homeless child. Everything is dangerous and, since you rarely have a home to retreat to, you are stuck outside when late night violence and crime might happen. It helps explain things around them as they travel through an uncertain and chaotic world.

There are two chief figures in this unique folklore. The first is a demon that prowls the streets that even the Devil himself is afraid of. She goes by two names you may be familiar with. She is Bloody Mary who is also known as La Llorona south of the border. Her eyeless face leaks bloody or black tears. She feeds on the terror of children. She delights in the senseless death of children. If you see her, she has already marked you for death. The other figure is an angel named The Blue Lady who is an ally to children. She has blue skin and lives in the ocean from which she keeps up the struggle against the demons. If you know her secret name, she will protect you and your friends from the bullets of a drive by shooting, demons, and anything under the sun. She gives hope to the children by telling them to “Hold On”. It is things like this that give these kids the spark that keeps them going some nights. It is a fascinating bit of anthropology and I love it.

The first thing I noticed was the grime over everything, even the supposedly clean parts. The movie takes place in Mexico in the crossfire of the drug cartel wars where law enforcement holds little power. The movie follows a group of kids just trying to survive what feels like a Mad Max wasteland. Along the way, they are helped by ghostly horror/fantasy elements in great bits of magical realism. The five children are each played by complete newcomers with no acting training or experience. The leads, Paola Lara and Juan Ramón López definitely do a great job as the leads and older kids who find themselves responsible. The kids draw on fairytale elements and totems to protect themselves in a world that they understand too well. The acting is so good. You can feel the conviction in their voices and see it in their eyes as they believe everything that they say. It keeps them alive.

I absolutely loved the special effects in this movie. Everything is kind of subtle but what we do see looks absolutely magical. There is some really great animation, some puppetry work, and, of course, computer-generated effects. Everything is so unnerving and reminds me of Guillermo Del Toro’s effects in Pan’s Labyrinth and Crimson Peak. I loved the stylized design of a lot of it that was definitely unique. The cinematography is really good. They did not go with the usual yellow filter over everything that most movies and television shows use when things are set in Mexico. Everything looks frighteningly real. Every shot is absolutely gorgeous. Shots in darkness are dark but you can still tell exactly what is happening. The sets are absolutely well-scouted and they found (or created) some really unique crumbling architecture.

Overall, I loved the movie. While it was not a straight horror movie, it definitely had enough Horror elements to qualify for this month. The very real horrors of the drug trade are scary enough without throwing ghosts on top of everything. The movie definitely feels like a modern fairytale with all of the darkness of the original fairytales. If you can get access, definitely watch this movie.

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