Archive for the ‘Blogs’ Category

Prince of Darkness (1987)

October 18, 2019

I had my own brush with Satanic Panic when I was a small child. It was Halloween and even then it was my all-time favorite holiday. I always enjoyed writing and creating stories and I could not help getting into the spirit of the holiday, apparently in a very method way. At one point, my brothers and neighbor took off running down the sidewalk and I wanted them to wait for me. I decided it would be in character to call out “Stop! In the name of the Devil!” A neighbor immediately chastised me, scared that I had invoked the name of humanity’s nemesis. That event and the rhetoric in church made me fear Satan a lot during childhood. For example, I never put my hands under my pillow while sleeping because I was afraid that Satan would drag me to Hell. I have told the story before but when I was a preteen, I was sleeping over at my best friend’s house when his mother called up. She said, “Hey guys, look outside it’s snowing!” I started to move toward the window but my friend said “Don’t. She could be the Devil. If we look, she’s got us.” Thoughts like this chilled me to bone. Now, like the Church of Satan says, I know that “Satan is a fictional character“. Still, it’s still fun to pretend.

I have often stated that losing oneself is probably one of my biggest fears. This includes changes made to my mind or body. Body horror is obviously terrifying but I am not afraid of monsters as much as I am afraid of becoming a monster or just melting into a subhuman mess. John Carpenter is very good at poking that fear center and is famous for exploiting it. I am also afraid of having my mind co-opted by a foreign entity. While that thought has helped me be a better skeptic, it is not a wholly rational fear. Well, except that there is already at least one case of dementia in my family. Horror is full of stories of possession and the change of people into monsters both figuratively and literally. Every single one of them is scary to me. Prime examples are The Thing, The Mouth of Madness, The Shining, all of the Re-Animator movies, and The Exorcist. Of course, there are so many other examples such as the myriad Hollywood movies on possession. I like to seek out these movies because they challenge me and, although they terrify me, they also inspire me.

The first thing I noticed was how much work the movie puts into introducing all of the characters and setting up their lives. The mystery of the movie unfolds slowly at first. I really liked the probably realistic depiction of the church as a large body that keeps so many secrets that even the Pope doesn’t know some of them. I also like the marrying of religion and science which gives this horror film a unique kind of feel. Both were invented to try and explain the universe but somethings should not be explored or spoken of. Like many of John Carpenter’s movies of the day, the aesthetic is gritty 1980s city. The movie keeps the tension going with trademark electronic music written and performed by John Carpenter, one of the few directors who could do that. The music is exactly what the movie needs at every moment. The special effects are top-notch as you would expect from Carpenter. A lot of practical effects which are gross and bloody.

One of the best parts about the movie is a great cast delivering great lines about evil, science, and religion. Horror legend Donald Pleasance plays an unnamed priest who is the catalyst of the whole movie. He is the one who delivers a lot of the dark lore in long ominous speeches. Victor Wong is the lead scientist, a man who is confounded by seeing things that go against his understanding of the universe. He delivers a lot of the science of the film, through lectures and speeches. Jameson Parker and Lisa Blount play the de facto lead characters, doing a lot of the moralizing and acting as the audience viewpoint. There is also an excellent cast of character actors involved in spooky science. There is also a creepy group led by the glorious Alice Cooper. Even silent he has so much charisma and his role is definitely memorable.

Overall, I really loved this movie. It is just as wild and crazy as the other two movies in the Apocalypse trilogy (The Thing, In the Mouth of Madness). This movie felt like it had less action-adventure components than The Thing and was more old school than In the Mouth of Madness.

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Media Update 10/17/19

October 17, 2019


Beyond Re-Animator

This is the third and final (so far) movie in the franchise based on an HP Lovecraft story. This one was released eighteen years after the original movie and 81 years after the release of the original story. This movie is set in 2003 with Dr. Herbert West serving a life sentence after his experiments are discovered and his lab partner makes a plea deal. A boy who witnessed one of the original experiments becomes the prison doctor and wants to restart the experiments for the good of humanity. Jeffrey Combs is back as Dr. West and his very serious demeanor results in a lot of dry, witty humor. He has great chemistry with his partner in crime played by Jason Barry. There is also the necessary human villain who is played diabolically by Simón Andreu who was a real scene-stealer. Throwing a wrench into everything is a reporter played by Elsa Pataky who is just such a great actress for horror. Once again, the movie is full of good intentions going tragically wrong. The movie is a rollercoaster of weirdness as were the other movies which leads to awesome effects and so much gore. I wish they had continued the franchise but this was a fitting end if it is truly done. I recommend it for lovers of gory, quirky horror.


Demonic Toys: Personal Demons

Long-time readers should expect tons of Full Moon Features movies esepcially during October. Anyway, this is a sequel to the original movie which was about demons who possess toys. Only three of the original toys return and this time they are in Italy where they are caught up in a mansion mystery which involves evil witchcraft and specific demonic lore. The first movie involved an interesting but somewhat complicated time loop. This one is way more simple and they have had years to improve the puppetry and the kills. Wisecracking puppets is something I love in and out of horror but horror is especially good at it. There’s something about the aesthetic of killer playthings that Full Moon is particularly good at even if the writing and production values are otherwise cheesy. Still, this is a franchise that was gone before its time as well. There is a colorful cast of goofy characters and this one feels a lot like one of my all-time favorites called Dolls. However, it does have some new lore of its own based on the ‘personal demon’ theory which was somewhat fascinating. Really, I’m just here for soap opera actors getting menaced by nineties stand up comedian goofs by playthings. I recommend this one as well.


Ghoulies Go to College

This movie felt like a soft reboot of the Ghoulies franchise. The Ghoulies are demons of ill-defined shape that came out shortly before Gremlins so they are not a ripoff. However, they acted a lot like Gremlins in that they were murderous and could not speak English. This new movie has them able to speak and they are constantly doing routines which are a mash-up of the Three Stooges and Animal House. The movie takes place on a college campus in the midst of the yearly prank war between two frats. The highlight of the movie is Professor Ragnar who is played by great character actor Kevin McCarthy. He seems to have a great time chewing the scenery and steals every scene he is in. Evan McKenzie and Eva LaRue play the protagonists, two college kids just trying to figure out their lives and the sudden mystery on campus. Whereas the first two films had fairly ordinary kills, this movie ups the comedy by having all of the kills be cartoony. This actually made them more terrifying to me because a lot of them involve Looney Tunes style body horror. Still, it was a fun movie that took the franchise in its own direction away from any more Gremlins accusations. I recommend it.

Music of the Week:

Code Orange – Let Me In

King Vader – Don’t Disrespect Halloween

Cornbugs – Spot the Psycho

In This Moment – Big Bad Wolf

Call Me Karizma – Monster (Under My Bed)

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Sequels Week 2019”
– I watched more Slasher Season 2
– I watched more The Blacklist Season 6
– I watched more Gotham Season 6
– I watched Killjoy’s Psycho Circus
– I watched the Rifftrax version of “A Talking Cat!?”
– I watched more Marianne Season 1
– I watched more Agents of SHIELD Season 6
– I started watching Carmen Sandiego Season 2

Blacula (1972)

October 16, 2019

I had long dismissed Blacula as some sort of blaxploitation equivalent of Dracula: Dead and Loving It. I thought it was a silly movie. I thought it was a joke. I often confused it with A Vampire in Brooklyn. It was only recently that I heard more about the movie through Horror Noire. Horror Noire is a documentary made this year that covers the history of Horror in Black Cinema. It introduced me to movies that I had never heard of and movies that I had only heard of in passing. It covered movies that I had seen like Candyman and Get Out. As a white person, I have tried to seek out movies that are somehow removed from my life experience. I want to see movies with people of color in them but I also want to see movies made by people of color. I have a long list of movies that I want to see and documentaries and even listicles help me focus that list.

My first experience with vampires was reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula during the summer when I was ten. It was after I had read Frankenstein and I was once again enthralled by a story of pure gothic horror. The story was scary to me as a little kid. The idea of being like Jonathan Harker and being trapped in a castle of vampires was horrible. The idea of being stalked like Mina Harker, never knowing what was out there in the shadows, sparked my imagination. But really, the worst was the idea of being turned like Renfield or Lucy Westenra. Losing my mind like Renfield and being a creature that fed on spiders and rats like some sort of rabid thing is a horrible thought. The idea of turning like Lucy and not being able to help myself from preying on the weak and then having my former friends kill me. I shudder. I feel like turning is scarier than being killed by a vampire.

The first thing I noticed was that this was not just a palette-swapped version of the Dracula story. In fact, they go to a good deal of trouble to connect the history of Blacula (not his actual name) with that of Dracula. This pleased me as a fan of the original book (and many adaptations) and it made me instantly want to see more of the story. The story also ties into the slave trade and colonialism which I should have expected (as exploitation films of the time tried to address such issues). There is definitely a hokey atmosphere involved. I mean, it is rated PG which still confuses me as it has plenty of blood. Different standards, I guess. It also is able to tie the myth of Dracula to the modern-day while also making the main character somewhat sympathetic. All of this is done in a style that manages to mix the exploitation style with something similar to Hammer Films. The music is also super funky in places and tense in others which makes for a fun mix.

Part of what makes this movie so good is the strong acting. William Marshall plays the title role and he is so commanding and charismatic. At times, he is also very sympathetic and charming and very human (as funny as that sounds). Vonetta McGhee plays his intended victim, a demure woman with plenty of curiosity. He is opposed by Thalmus Rasulala who plays a stern but funny Police scientist who is not only dealing with Blacula but also with the incompetence and spitefulness of the White police. Denise Nicholas plays McGhee’s best friend and Rasulala’s girlfriend who does not know how to deal with the weirdness (except with the occasional joke). Finally, there is a white cop played by Gordon Pinsent who just cannot be bothered. The cast adds so much to what could have been fluff but ended up being scary and interesting. They go for a joke to relieve the tension but they keep the scares going when they need to.

Overall, I loved this movie way more than I thought I would. There was enough action to keep me interested but also enough story to make me happy that I was hooked. It was a pleasant divergence from the traditional Dracula mythos while still staying true to its spirit. It was full of dark romance and plenty of danger.

Us (2019)

October 14, 2019

When I was a preteen, my family used to go to Busch Gardens Williamsburg which I loved the theming of. Part of the theming at the time was that each section of the park was patterned after a European country. My favorite was Banbury Cross (Olde England) but that is not relevant here. One of the sections was themed after Germany, most of which was based on the yearly celebration of Oktoberfest. One of the attractions that I actually chose to ride was a riverboat that cruised up and down the river gently. However, the boat that we boarded was called The Doppelganger. It was during this trip that the tour guide decided to explain what the boat’s namesake was. He told us that everybody in the world has a doppelganger out there. If you ever meet your doppelganger, they could easily kill you and take over your life. The thought terrified me. Back then I really believed in such things and the thought of another me, itching to get rid of me chilled me to the bone. It stuck with me even if it passed from my mind from time to time.

The idea has been explored to some extent before. This idea that we are our own worst enemy is nothing new. We are our own worst critic but also our best advocate and those sides of us are in constant war with each other. If that dark side of ourselves were to manifest as an actual being, all of our worst energies, it would be most dangerous to ourselves. My anxiety and periodic depression have made me very critical of me and I come down hard on myself in my bluest periods. The thought of that darkness leaking out into the world and coming against me and the ones that I love is a bad, bad thought. To have it literally happen is even worse than the few times I have shot my mouth off and made things worse. The clearest example of it I can remember is Invasion of the Body Snatchers and also an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I feel like the concept could use more exploring so I am glad to see it here.

The first thing I noticed was how psychological this movie is. Jordan Peele has proven that he does not need fancy effects to make things absolutely eerie. He does a lot with camera shots, music, and the expressions of his actors that absolutely makes me incredibly tense. He plays with light and shadow and simple optical tricks that mess with your head. Long silences left me stuck in anticipation, waiting for what horrible thing might happen next. Even things I expected to happen ended up scaring me. That is the sign of a great horror movie. I spent a lot of the movie filled with both the dread of what I knew was probably going to happen but also the fear of not knowing for sure if that was what would happen. Of course, being Jordan Peele, there are greater things at work too. The symbolism itself is scary as Hell. The concepts themselves bring a lot to the table. There are great political messages that are reflected in horrible ways.

Part of what makes this movie so good is the brilliant cast that they were able to get. For example, Peele was able to nab Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke fresh off of their star-making turn in Black Panther. Nyong’o plays a loving mother who is already fraying at the edges at the start of the movie from childhood trauma. Duke plays her husband, a nerdy but lovable certified dad who is just trying to figure his family out. Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex play their young children who are quirky but normal kids. Of course, as you might expect they all play double duty and they are fantastic at it. The cast is rounded out by Tim Heidecker and Elizabeth Moss who are pretty creepy as well.

Overall, the movie had me on the edge of my seat the entire run. I was absolutely gripped by this movie in the same way that I was gripped by Get Out. I prayed both for a good ending and for somebody to explain to me what was happening. I also really loved the message in this one. While many horror movies have a message, some of the best ones have political messages. They are a dark reflection of our human condition and this one is no different. I absolutely recommend this.

Dead Alive aka Braindead (1992)

October 11, 2019

Rated R for gore and language.

Back in 2016, I reviewed a little movie called Bad Taste which happens to be the first film that a young Peter Jackson made. It was absolutely fantastic in a similar style to the Troma style of horror movies. Lots of wildly fake but gross gore and plenty of silly comedy. The thing is, the general public mostly knows Peter Jackson as “the guy who made Lord of the Rings”. Except, the Lord of the Rings franchise was the second phase of his career. Before that, he made three horror movies that are still celebrated today even if one of them is not technically ‘good’. In 1983 (when I was not yet one year old) he joined together with his friends to make a goofy, crazy horror movie called Bad Taste. It took them four years filming on weekends in their little town in New Zealand. Still, it was his ticket to show business and nine years later (1989) he released The Frighteners, a fun horror comedy starring Michael J Fox. In between, he directed his second film to get a wide release in the United States called Braindead (renamed Dead Alive for American audiences). I am so excited to watch this last movie in his horror trilogy.

As long as I can remember, I have been afraid of contagion. I think that is a natural response to learning that out there are things that you cannot see that can kill you. I used to dread visiting hospitals because I just knew I was going to catch something. I still get skeeved out in them. When I was a preteen, my mom’s best friend got cancer and my first fear was that my mom would catch it consoling her. Obviously, I am not alone in my fear. The media is rife with stories about one contagion or another. Since I was a kid there have been tons of outbreaks of Mad Cow Disease. There have been some potential Ebola outbreaks a little too close to home but now they seem to have developed a cure. That is why the anti-vax movement scares me so much because it causes outbreaks of diseases we thought we already defeated. It makes me worry about how the United States and the world would do in a real global pandemic with too many stupid people on Earth.

What I first noticed was that this movie is every bit as goofy and zany as Bad Taste but with a slightly higher budget. Everything is done with practical effects and the gore starts flowing within minutes of the beginning. In keeping with the same wacky atmosphere as his previous movies, the camera lurches from dramatic angle to dramatic angle like an episode of 1960s Batman. Still, I feel like all of this services the movie really well as it heightens the comedy as it shifts to horror. Everything keeps high energy and almost never stops building toward a conclusion. As I said, the blood definitely flows and the aforementioned contagion and rot definitely rears its head. Those effects are so gross but again, good for the movie. There is a reason that this movie holds the record for most fake blood used in a movie. I also love the stop motion animation. Stop motion has a lot of potential for being absolutely terrifying (see The Ghoulies, The Gate, Evil Dead, and Puppet Master).

The acting is over the top but also fantastic. Timothy Balme is perfect as the nerdy, put upon guy who is thrust into a horrible situation.  He feels like Charlie Chaplin stuck in a horror movie. Diana Peñalver is great as the sunny and naive Hispanic immigrant who falls in love with Balme for better or worse. Elizabeth Moody plays Balme’s horrible mother who is horrible to be with even before everything goes to Hell. The rest of the movie is populated by plenty of zany character actors who get into a lot of terrifying but comically violent situations. It is once again set in New Zealand with a mostly New Zealand cast. A lot of the acting is purposefully exaggerated as it was in Bad Taste. It is like watching a horror movie made by the Three Stooges and The Marx Brothers in the best way. Almost everybody mugs for the camera and makes sure every word is over annunciated. Over the top was the only way to do this movie and it really works for me.

Overall, I really loved this movie. It made me cringe and wince over and over but its outrageousness kept me wondering what would happen next. It is full of plenty of surprises but all of the surprises are definitely earned instead of just for cheap scares. While the movie is still pretty rough, it shows clearly how good Peter Jackson is at putting a movie together. Everything works together in service of the movie and nothing clashes. Everything works toward wacky, bloody horror and nothing pauses the action unnecessarily. I definitely recommend it for people with strong stomachs.

Media Update 10/10/19

October 10, 2019


Dead Heat

I have no idea why I did not hear about this movie until this year. Once I found out about it, I absolutely had to watch it. The basic premise is that two cops are running down a lead on somebody who is using zombies to rob jewelry stores. One of the cops dies, they get brought back into a zombie, and you can now see the buddy cop possibilities now. Joe Piscopo (somehow in thousands of Eighties movies) plays the comic relief cop, the slob with a big mouth. His straight-arrow partner (and the lead protagonist) is played by Treat Williams and is the perfect foil for Piscopo. Lindsay Frost plays the femme fatale as part of the mystery. Clare Kirkconnell plays the scientist trying to help the cops figure things out, blindsided by her own companies apparent collusion in the plot. There are also great cameos from Robert Picardo, Vincent Price, and Keye Luke. (I cannot get through an October without seeing something with Vincent Price in it). The movie is very goofy but also very intriguing because it actually has a decent mystery and great actors. It also approaches zombies from a science fiction angle that was a bit refreshing. I definitely recommend it.


Wolfcop

I have had this movie in my back pocket since it first popped up on Netflix. I find werewolves to be one of the most fascinating horror tropes but I kind of enjoy them more outside of horror. I just think it is a really cool ability/curse to have if you can control it. This movie is exactly what it says on the cover. The worst cop in a small town becomes a werewolf and shenanigans ensue. What I did not expect was some really likable characters played by good actors, none of whom I was familiar with previously. They also seemed to give the town a sense of world-building and really gave the character’s background. Nobody was exactly one-note and it was way more fleshed out than a lot of horror fare, especially for something that is very silly on its surface. Once things got going, I really enjoyed the ride. My only complaint is that it felt like the movie ended to quickly but there is a sequel so maybe I can get another fix. I also recommend this.


Angel Heart

This movie apparently got a bad rap early on but has slowly grown in popularity into a cult hit. It has been listed as an influence of a lot of people such as Christopher Nolan and the makers of Bioshock Infinite. The movie is a so-called neo-noir film but it is also psychological horror. It stars Mickey Rourke as an extremely low-level private eye who gets hired by an enigmatic client to find a missing person. His client is played by an almost unrecognizable but fun Robert Deniro. What seems at first to be a simple but odd case quickly becomes a spiraling mystery that gets stranger and stranger. Rourke is great as a likable detective, just trying his best to figure things out because he is curious. Lisa Bonet also appears as one of his leads and a potential romantic lead. The movie is dark and gritty but strangely funny in places. Rourke is offbeat and quirky but believably so. The score drives the movie forward as the music really helps sew the movie together and keep the tension alive. I definitely recommend it (although it just barely escaped an X rating though I have seen worse stuff that was rated PG-13).

 

Music of the Week:

BLOODY HAMMERS – Let Sleeping Corpses Lie

Peter Hollens & Bailey Pelkman – Come Little Children & The Hanging Tree

North American Pharaohs-Monster of a Man

FLATBUSH ZOMBiES – HEADSTONE

The Distillers – Drain The Blood

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Spooky Case Files”
– I started watching Slasher Season 2
– I watched more The Blacklist Season 6
– I watched more Gotham Season 6
– I watched more Supergirl Season 4
– I watched The Evil Bong 3
– I watched The Evil Bong vs. The Gingerdead Man
– I watched the Rifftrax version of Samurai Cop
– I watched more Marianne Season 1
– I watched more Charmed Season 1
– I watched more Agents of SHIELD Season 6

Hereditary (2018)

October 9, 2019

Rated R for gore, language, violence and plenty of spooks

What we inherit from our parents can be a frightening thought. For example, genetics are particularly likely to cause anxiety among new parents or prospective parents. This is one reason why so many people are getting genetic testing these days to see what they might pass on to their kids. Who knows what nasty thing could be lurking in your genes? I have known a lot of people who were worried they might inherit their parent’s alcoholism or high risk of cancer. These days these unknowns are getting less likely but there is still the chance that something stays dormant in your genetics and pops up generations later. For example, I was born with a rare heart defect which led to an absolutely terrifying fifth-grade year. Also, dementia might run in my family which has me worried.

It is also not just genetics we inherit. Most people think about inheriting property and money but there can be other things lurking. People joke about inheriting debt but our current laws make that mostly impossible. Well, except for debt causing a chain of poverty down through the generations. What I am talking about is that sometimes we do not know the people in our life as well as we thought we did. You can find some very troubling things in the belongings of the deceased. For instance, my family cleared out a house that used to belong to a neighbor of ours. We found a ton of firearms, KKK memorabilia, and Nazi memorabilia. I worked on an Estate once where they found a cardboard box of drivers licenses with names that had no discernible connection to the deceased. I did not investigate.

The first thing I noticed about this movie is the pervasive tone of dread throughout the early parts of the movie. This makes sense as it is labeled as a psychological horror movie. The lighting, the music, the soft tones of people’s voices, it all adds up and starts ratcheting up the tension without the use of jump scares or spring-loaded cats. When the very real fear is mental illness, you do not need to pile anything on top of that. Part of that is also that the special effects are incredibly subtle the few that are there. The movie is mostly dread and anticipation as you wait for something bad to happen. The rest is how the mind deals with emotions and reality after bad things happen with the looming specter of mental illness. Or is something else going on? The ambiguous nature of the movie definitely made it all the scarier.

The acting is superb in this. Toni Colette plays the mom, struggling with the guilt she feels after her mother dies and her own worries over her sanity. She is the heart and soul of this movie and she does such a great job realistically breaking down. Milly Shapiro is so great as the daughter, a young eccentric girl who might be on the autism spectrum or might just be a late bloomer of some sort. Alex Wolff plays the son, a young kid who feels disconnected from it all and just wants to get back to a normal life. Gabriel Byrne plays the husband who is a bit out of his depth even though he’s a psychiatrist. The dynamic between the characters just feels like a close yet slightly dysfunctional family. If it were not a horror movie, I could definitely see them having a cool story arc like in Lady Bird.

Overall, I loved the movie as it was definitely a mind-warping experience. The movie plays with your perceptions of reality through unreliable narrators. It is so well done that it was hard to shake this movie from my psyche. I know something is scary if it sticks with me for a long time afterward. I would definitely put this movie in the same box that includes The Witch.

The Pit and the Pendulum (1991)

October 7, 2019

Rated R for gore, torture, and full-frontal nudity.

 

Today is the anniversary of the death of Edgar Allen Poe, a great writer and one of the fathers of modern horror. He was also less problematic than some other older authors. Of course, the reason that I continue to honor Poe is that, although he was born in Boston, he was a famous resident of Baltimore. Baltimore buried him and claims him and his legend. He was arguably the father of the detective genre in literature and was one of the earliest writers to employ the short story. I love short stories. I love to read them and I love to write them. Poe published originally through newspapers and other periodicals. I carry out his tradition through this blog. Self-publishing was not something that was really possible in Poe’s day. A lot of Poe’s work has a deep, existential dread and my mind often drifts to reference his works subconsciously. I want to continue to find good adaptations of his work to help keep it alive.

The Spanish Inquisition was undoubtedly an incredibly scary time in history. Any period of time when a subsection of the populace is not only hunted but tortured when caught, it is terrifying. We have had similar periods in our country, the closest of which was probably the Salem Witch Trials. However, the inquisition was done on such a grander scale. The Church took control of the State and drove it into committing atrocities against the People. There was never any consequences, as the Church and the State rarely face consequences. It is literally the same energy and ideology that led to the rise of the Nazi party. It is the same thread of evil that we must face again and again in every period of history. Manipulation through ignorance that leads to horrors beyond imagining. Torture, rape, murder. It makes me shudder.

The first thing I noticed is the overall tone of the movie. This movie is not a traditional horror movie as much of Poe’s work covers a lot of existential dread and the horrors of man (his Lovecraftian works notwithstanding). In this, he is tackling the terror of being under the power of a fascist regime. That feeling of powerlessness as you are exposed daily to terror while bystanders not only condone it but smirk and judge you for being its victim. However, there is also plenty of comedy in the movie for contrast. The comedy feels like that in The Death of Stalin, where you feel you should not laugh but you are forced to. The movie uses lighting and severe architecture as a way to reinforce the tone of this authoritarian terror. The music also does a lot, with great orchestral and choral pieces to really lay it on thick. Also, there is the expected amount of horrible gore (in true Full Moon fashion).

The star of the movie is Lance Hendrickson who plays the infamous and very real Torquemada. He obviously pours himself into the role, playing the role of a merciless zealot to the hilt. Every scene he is in, I felt like he was staring right through my soul. Apparently, he researched the role a lot and stayed in character between scenes (and sometimes in public in Italy) which I am sure was a delight. Rona de Ricci plays the young heroine in the clutches of Torquemada. She is great at being young and innocent and sympathetic. Jonathan Fuller plays the young hero whose wife is in danger and he is powerless to protect her. Frances Bay plays a snarky, brassy woman who is a fellow prisoner and de Ricci’s partner in crime for much of the movie. Mark Margolis plays Torquemada’s thuggish torturer sidekick with dark pleasure.

Overall, I really liked this version of the story. It was directed by Stuart Gordon who also directed Re-Animator and Dolls, two movies of this season that I also love. The movie stays true to the story of religious mania and authoritarian power of the original story. It also has all of the gore you would expect if you read the original story.

Shocker (1989)

October 4, 2019

Rated R for some gore, blood, and plenty of foul language.

No matter how one feels about capital punishment aka the death penalty, one has to admit that it is definitely pretty horrific. Whether people feel that it is justified or not, committing the actual deed is very scary. Pretty much every method we humans have thought of is absolutely terrible. We thought of beheading, which we know causes sharp pain and the head is often aware for moments after completion. Hanging breaks the neck when done right but causes a slow, painful death when done incorrectly. Firing squads are clearly painful with no question. The electric chair is absolutely brutal as it takes time for the body to overload with electricity and every pain receptor must fire off at once. The gas chamber is not only painful but has extremely unfortunate historical implications. We have recently learned that the method of lethal injection is both severely painful and extremely fallible. This is all coupled with must be the horrible anticipation and dread that being on death row brings.

As a former theater electrician, I developed a healthy respect for the awesome power of electricity. When I was first learning the trade for real in college, I had a lot of great teachers. I took to it immediately having had a little bit of experience already. Those who showed zero experience and zero instinct for the work were often nicknamed “Sparky”. Such was the case with a man who later became a friend who tried to loosen a lightbulb with a screwdriver. The mocking was not meant to be cruel. It was meant to make those who followed safety rules good and correct those who did not immediately follow the rules. I learned a lot from that gang of misfits. When I later worked with the audio department, I worked on a project where I learned what to do when somebody on a job site was getting electrocuted. All you had to do was loop your belt around their waist and attempt to pull and break the connection without completing the circuit with your own body. I was only shocked once and that is all it took to respect that force for the rest of my life.

The first thing I noticed was that this movie was very in line with Wes Craven’s other works of the time. As evidenced by the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Craven was definitely interested in dreams and weird imagery. The Scream and the Nightmare franchises show that he is very interested in getting meta. This movie combines the two concepts and ups the comedy aspects. It feels like Craven was cutting loose after producing two Freddy movies and being bombarded with the rest of the franchise. The movie knows exactly what it is and puts the pedal to the medal on how ridiculous things can get. Part of that is the crazy special effects they used. There are a lot of standard lightning effects but there were other things that surprised me. Including television into the mix makes for some great comedy and some inventive story beats. It feels like an answer to where the Freddy franchise had gone and maybe it was Craven stretching his legs a bit.

Part of the charm of this movie is the acting by Mitch Pileggi as the home-invading serial murderer who gets a brand new MO. He is so fun even as he murders people. He is like a cross between Freddy Krueger and Charles Lee Ray. He has a lot of the same snarky charm as Robert Englund and Brad Dourif portrayed too. Craven made a rare move and cast a male as the hero but still did a lot of the same beats as with a “final girl”. Peter Berg plays the dumb jock who suddenly finds himself with a psychic connection to the killer. Camille Cooper plays his girlfriend, a highly intelligent woman who I thought was going to be dismissed but she ends up being way more important. The rest of the cast plays their goofy parts to the hilt. There is plenty of pathos and drama but I really enjoyed the dorky comic relief in this movie. Horror fans will love cameos from Heather Langenkamp and Ted Raimi. Fans of goofy guys getting terrorized will love the cameo from John Tesh.

Overall, I really loved this movie. Like I said earlier, it definitely felt like a movie that knew exactly what it was and went for it. It was very much like Happy Death Day 2 U which I saw earlier this year. It is also the same spirit that the Fast and Furious franchise has where you cannot wait for the next ridiculous thing to happen and when it is all over, you understand everything that happened for a reason.

Media Update 10/3/19

October 3, 2019


Marianne

I was attracted to this show for two reasons. The first was that Stephen King publicly endorsed it and the second is that it contains one of my favorite tropes which is stories entering the real world. The show is about a horror novel writer (extremely prolific like King) who is about to retire her extremely popular franchise when she discovers that they just might be real. The show does horror in a very psychological way. The show has such good anticipation and dread that when the horror happens it is almost a relief for a split second. There is plenty of blood but not much gore. The show is made in France and is entirely in French. Victoire Du Bois plays the lead role and I love her kind of punk rock aesthetic. For a writer, she is not extremely bright but she is backed up by her charming assistant played by Lucie Boujenah. She is also supported by her hometown friends with which she will have to explore her own dark past. Finally, we have the brilliant Mireille Herbstmeyer who is so brilliant as the title character, absolutely terrifying. I am only three episodes in but I know the mystery goes deeper and I am ready for it. I definitely recommend it.


Dark Night of the Scarecrow

I have seen this movie on a lot of top ten lists of sleeper hits and added it to my list directly off of a Bloody Disgusting list of television horror movies. This is a good old fashioned, regular horror movie which is fun to watch every so often. The story of this one is that a mentally handicapped man is murdered for a crime he did not commit and months later a scarecrow starts stalking the men who committed his murder. The good thing about movies like this is that they make the upcoming victims utterly unlikable. Much of the movie is watching them squirm as they are stalked and killed. There are no real surprises, nothing really for me to spoil. The highlight of the movie is the young girl played by Tonya Crowe who was the friend of the murdered innocent soul. The movie also features the legendary Charles Durning who apparently did all of his stunts for this. The movie has good editing and good pacing and is just a solid horror movie. I recommend it as a relaxing break in your Halloween routine.


Body Bags

This is a movie that I have seen everywhere as well and for good reason because it is co-directed by horror legends Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter. I had considered it two years ago when I was doing a post on horror anthologies. This is a horror/comedy anthology movie with three parts. Each part is bookended by scenes from a morgue where a technician does a little epilogue and introduction for each story. John Carpenter plays our host and he is very funny and good at resetting the mood between each story. The segments are called “The Gas Station”, “Hair”, and “Eye” and each are very different horror-flavored stories with different tones and themes. Tobe Hooper also appears along with famous horror directors Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, Greg Nicotero, and Roger Corman all as cameos. The actual actors are no slouches either with great appearances from David Warner, Robert Carradine, Alex Datcher, Debbie Harry, Stacy Keach, Sheena Easton, Mark Hamill (!), Twiggy, and Charles Napier. The movie is good hokey fun, especially with the Carpenter scenes. I definitely recommend it.

 

Music of the Week:
Shakira – She-Wolf

Poppy – Scary Mask ft. FEVER 333

Panic! At The Disco – It’s Almost Halloween

FREDDY KRUEGER – OFFICIAL “SLASH ‘EM UP”

LEATHERFACE – “Friends with no Faces…”

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Television Horror”
– I watched the Rifftrax versions of “Ice Cream Man” and “Birdemic”
– I started watching Gotham Season 5
– I started watching The Blacklist Season 6
– I watched more Marvel’s Agents of Shield Season 6
– I watched more How to Get Away with Murder Season 1
– I watched more Supergirl Season 4
– I watched more Charmed Season 1
– I finished Lucha Underground Season 4


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