Posts Tagged ‘Creepy’

Dolls (1987)

October 16, 2017

78 minutes – Rated R for horrible people, child neglect, gore and nightmares.

The uncanny valley is such a powerful tool in visual horror. The concept of the uncanny valley says that we will be creeped out by things more as they look more and more human. When something becomes completely human-looking, our unease is allayed. Seeing things trying to be human but not achieving it makes them look alien and frightening. We know what humans can do but near-humans look erratic and unpredictable. If they are inanimate, we have nightmares that they will begin to move around as humans do. This is largely where the fear of dolls comes from. People have long thought dolls are creepy. When I was in theater, we did a show where the set was adorned with Putti which were created by stapling wings to baby dolls and then spray painting them. People swore that the eyes followed them as they walked the stage. The dolls also periodically fell from great heights with no warning during rehearsal as if they were trying to attack. It was unnerving and there is power in that.

Small things are also terrifying. If you do not believe me, think about the story I heard as a kid about living in the desert and waking up in the morning and slipping your shoes on only for there to be a stinging scorpion hiding in there. There are many real tiny terrors in the world which includes spiders, scorpions, diseased mosquitos, ticks, and especially bees and wasps. I never worried about my dolls (ahem action figures) coming to life when I was little. Even when I was thirteen and watched Toy Story, I never really worried about it. However, I know plenty of people do fear that as kids. That is why there are so many horror stories about killer dolls. Childs Play, Demonic Toys, Puppetmaster, and Poltergeist all come to mind but there are dozens. I will probably see them all eventually. Little things are hard to keep track of if they do not want you to find them and they can turn up in the most surprising places. It’s a scary thought that they might be anywhere around.

I love a good horror movie with truly detestable people in it. It makes me feel less guilty to watch them get killed in inventive ways. I have quickly determined that if I have empathy for a character, it makes horror movies scarier because I dread anything happening to that character. This movie does not have that problem as most of the people, except for the little kid, are absolutely horrible. There is a strange combination of mean and moronic that personified a lot of horror movie victims in the eighties and nineties. Also, bonus points for having American tourists in England being completely awful and pushy. More bonus points for lower class British people being loud and rude. The movie not so subtly drops in one of the biggest concepts of fairy tales: be nice or suffer the consequences. The acting is very melodramatic but this is yet another Charles Band movie. The lower class punks are modeled after Madonna and the upper-class Americans are modeled after just about every rich person in the USA.
The saving grace for the adults is Stephen Miller who is kind of funny to watch and definitely a good guy.

They obviously spent a lot of time on post-production on this one. There are so much great puppets and practical effects. Someone obviously had a lot of fun making killer toys on a workbench somewhere in Italy (where this was filmed on a soundstage). I really would love to see a behind the scenes documentary or some blueprints on how they animated some of the dolls in this movie. By the way, based on the title, it should not be a spoiler that there are killer dolls in this movie. I suppose they used a lot of the same types of effects that were used in the early Child’s Play movies. It is difficult to imbue life on an inanimate object even with the aid of CGI and it takes a real puppetry master to make them actually scary. To me, these were way creepier than films like Puppetmaster or Demonic Toys and that has a lot to do with attention to detail and good production values. Of course, that is praise for this movie and I would never denigrate a movie I love like the Puppetmaster franchise. It may not be amazing by today’s standards (just wait for my Cult of Chucky comments on Thursday) but this type of thing fascinates me.

Overall, I thought this was a really twisted yet fun horror movie. I thought it would be a normal run-of-the-mill horror romp and in a lot of ways, I was right. However, the movie takes a lot of random left turns that surprised me or really weirded me out but they never felt forced. They left me dreading what was going to happen next but also looking forward to where the story might go next. This story definitely goes to some seriously forked up places, too. Charles Band rules my dreams and nightmares yet again.

Stonehearst Asylum (2014)

October 6, 2017


1 hour 53 minutes – Rated PG-13 for gore, violence, and some insinuated sexual situations

Tomorrow is a day that will live in infamy. On October 7th, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe died under mysterious circumstances. He was found in a terrible state and managed to utter “Lord help my poor soul” before he died although it is hard to substantiate that claim. He also reportedly called out the name “Reynolds” the night before his death but nobody knows who that is. His death certificate and medical records disappeared and so nobody could confirm what he actually died of. It is widely accepted that he was an alcoholic and that is often chosen as the direct or indirect cause of death. We do know that the death of his wife hurt him deeply and definitely unbalanced his life combined with his career in writing for journals causing him to have to move around a lot. Regardless, 168 years ago tomorrow he died and was buried in my hometown of Baltimore. The so-called Father of the Mystery Story had left behind two mysteries. One, the exact cause of his death and the other was a Baltimore urban legend. The Poe Toaster is an unidentified man who deposited a bottle of cognac, roses, and sometimes a note on Poe’s grave on Poe’s birthday. To this day, his identity remains a secret but it is theorized that since the tradition continued at least 60 years that it may have been a family tradition. It was a fitting triubte to a man who poured so much horror and mystery onto the page.

If doctors and normal hospitals are scary, then an asylum for the insane or mentally unbalanced is even scarier to me. When I was growing up, we were jokingly told to be good or we would end up in Shepard Pratt. Sheppard Pratt is a mental facility situated in Baltimore County and it has been there throughout my life. It is a modern center of mental health and nowhere near the frightening place that I imagined when I was a kid. Still, it is a facility full of people who are mentally unhealthy enough that they must be kept in a facility to cater to their needs. There should be no stigma for these people but the reality is that these people can be unpredictable. Walking amongst those patients, I would know that they are at least a little more volatile than I am. Dealing with that is scary to me. Beyond feeling less than safe, I would feel alone as I would not know whose mind I could trust beyond the staff. That is a modern facility, the asylums of Poe’s day were far less regulated and were unenlightened on how to treat these people. It was probably far more dangerous to work there.

Right away I really liked the acting. Every line is instilled with a little bit of tension so that even seemingly innocuous things seem scarier. This actually put me off my guard because I had no idea when the actual scares would be coming. This is much more effective than hitting the viewer with random jump scares and musical stings to cause unease. Actual tension is kind of a lot art these days and it was refreshing to get something with traditional horror rather than repeated frightenings. Most of the actors are people I am unfamiliar with but they all have such pleasant accents for an American-made horror film. The core of the movie is held by the legendary Ben Kingsley, legendary English actor and a very charismatic personality. Our protagonist is played by Jim Sturgess and he is likable and a great proxy for the audience. Finally, we have Michael Caine, David Thewlis, and Kate Beckinsale playing major roles.

The movie is an unreliable narrative in the style of similar books and films like Quills and Shutter Island. This is par for the course when you are dealing with insane asylums in fiction. As the movie says, you must not believe anything you hear and only about half of what you see. I will not spoil the secret of the movie but, as with a lot of great horror movies, there is a secret to the movie. It is a middle of the road mystery with some clever surprises. The lighting and the sets are great for a period piee set in one of the worst periods for medicine, a time when we knew just enough to be dangerous. The costumes seem to be impeccably researched as I did not see anything anachronistic.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty good creepy, period drama. While it is no great horror movie, it definitely helps to set the mood as we get deeper into Halloween. It is also a nice break from the two previous supernatural tales to see instead a tale of man’s inhumanity toward man. There are a lot of gray areas in this movie and that makes it all the creepier. I was looking for someting to honor Baltimore’s Edgar Allen Poe and this was the best adaptation I have seen so far. It adapted the The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether short story which is more dark comedy than this was. This had a few comedy moments but it was mostly drama and horror. I recommend it.

The Key Pt 4

October 7, 2014

After twenty minutes of confused tears, Robin lifted her forehead from the table.  She wiped her cheeks dry on her sleeves.  She did not dare look at her tattoos for fear that they were still moving around.  She walked around the bar and checked each door and shut off the lights.  She didn’t know if the other her had counted out the register but after a moment’s thought she decided she really did not care.  At least she discovered her share of the tips stuffed in her cleavage.  She never stored things there but did not look a gift horse in the mouth.

She walked out onto the street and the lighting just felt really off as if everything was either too dim or a slightly different color.  If she told anybody about this night, they would lock her up and throw away the key.  She carefully walked along a seam in the sidewalk for a moment to test if she was still drunk.  It looked like she was walking a straight line but how would she know?  She decided to chance it and started to fumble for her keys.  She thought this was the perfect time for a mugging but once again, she did not care.

Finally, she located her keys and opened the door of her crappy little car.  The car started on the second and a half try and she started towards home.  At these wee hours of the night, there was no traffic to slow her down or get in the way of her possibly intoxicated mind.  It felt weird stopping at all of the red lights when nobody was around.  These days you had to assume a traffic camera at almost every intersection.

She turned up the classic rock station to fill the silent void of the dead of night.  She tried not to think too much about the term ‘the dead of night’ either.  She changed stations rapidly when commercials started to come on.  How could they try and sell her things when she was in this state of mind?  Top 40 pop music hits started to fill the car.  She did not usually like that kind of music but the beat was catchy and anything was better than silence or her own thoughts.  Or worse, somebody else’s thoughts.

She pulled up to the outside of her apartment building and cringed as the hubcap scraped and ground against the curb.  She thought for sure that she had woken the neighborhood but when she shut the car off there was that chilling silence again.  It felt like a pregnant silence, full of the stored potential of the future.  As far as Robin was concerned, nothing more needed to happen at the moment.

She stumbled out of the car and then stumbled up the stairs to the apartment she shared with her roommate.  She spent what felt like fifteen minutes finding her key on the ring.  She marveled at how all of the keys looked alike at night.  The door opened and the apartment was completely dark.  Annabella must not have come home yet.  She walked into the apartment and spotted a flickering light out of the corner of her eye.  That was the hallway to their shared bathroom.  She headed for the hallway and when she turned the corner she stopped and stared.  All of the little hairs on her arm stood on end.

Kneeling in a pool of blinking fluorescent light, there was a young girl with pigtails with her head bowed.  The girl was motionless and immediately all of those alarm bells went off in Robin’s head.  It was like the Beetleman all over again and she was still not sure what had happened there.  She started to back out of the hallway.  She did not need any more adventures or surprises.  Just as she was almost out of range of the light, the girl looked up.
The movement was as if she was a marionette and she had been pulled upright by her strings.  Her face was a doll’s face.  There was really no other way to describe it.  The puppet girl’s face was hard like porcelain or vinyl and was painted just like a child’s doll.  The happy smile was painted on too perfect and looked frightening in the flickering white light.  They sat for what seemed like eons and stared at each other.  Finally, Robin started to back up towards the door.  She glanced in the mirror Annabella had insisted on placing in the hallway and cursed her other self.  Somehow this was Other Robin’s fault.

“Don’t go.” A voice said from within the perfect veneer of the puppet girl’s face.
Robin jumped at the sound and hurried faster, turning away from the little puppet.  Why was this creepy little girl in her house?  Why was she a puppet?  There were too many questions and never any real answers.  She hurried to the door but could not bring her tired legs to a run.

“Help me.” The puppet girl muttered, lips probably not moving.  Robin could not bring herself to turn around and check if the perfect lips moved.  She had a feeling they would not and did not want to witness it.  “Help me.” It said again.

Robin could not wait anymore and fled from the apartment, slamming the door behind her.  In a flash she was behind the steering wheel of her car again and thankfully it started on the first turn of the key.  Tires screeched as she accelerated hard and headed toward her friend Stephanie’s house.

Clownhouse (1989)

September 25, 2014

So it looks like it’s time to start the Halloween festivities early and the first stop on this year’s tour is the Clownhouse.  Hope you brought a change of underwear.

“I’m hoping for Killer Klowns but I’ll probably get Halloween Part 5.”

I really like cheesy horror movies with horrible effects and horrible writing.  I don’t like gross-out horror movies or torture porn movies.   Killer Klowns from Outer Space is definitely a standout among all of the horror movies that I have seen.  It was cheesy but it scared the crap out of me when I first saw it.  On the other hand, I never liked Michael Myers.  It was drawn out with no humor and just seemed pointless to watch if you’ve already seen the Friday the 13th movies.  Once again, Halloween 3 is the only one I like.

“My brothers and I were assholes to each other when we grew up but this is ridiculous.”

A lot of the time when we were growing up my brothers and I could sometimes be utter dicks to each other and even got into some heated wrestling matches or outright fights.  Still, when the chips were down we begrudgingly backed each other up.  I would have never squealed on either of my brothers for wetting the bed or mocked a phobia.  Still, the dynamic is actually pretty believable given the kids’ ages even though I like to think I was a lot nicer to my younger brothers when I became a teenager.

“Aw man, I was hoping for a supernatural clown movie.  Basically Fright Night with Clowns.”

Fright Night is another great, cheesy horror movie with just enough thrills to make you shiver but enough comedy to let you go home happy.  Looking back I don’t know why I expected this to be a supernatural clown horror movie.  I was probably spoiled by Pennywise, Killer Klowns and Poltergeist.

“Eleven minutes in and the protagonist finally speaks after being in at least four or five conversations.”

The film seems to follow the youngest brother who already has a fear of clowns from a previous encounter.  The film begins with his nightmare and the camera seems to follow him the most.  However, he remains stubbornly silent for a good chunk of the movie.  He is really good at looking terrified though which he does often.  Most of the lines in the movie go to the oldest brother who is an asshole.

“The Scary Fortuneteller has a dead eye and looks kind of like Hatchetface.”

I’m pretty sure she added nothing to the film although there’s a chance it could pay off later.  She was not very scary even if fortunetelling is a real skill in horror movies.  The great part was that she reminded me of Mona “Hatchetface” Malnorowski which is fun.  It wasn’t Kim McGuire, though, I checked.  Still, a great face for an old fortuneteller.

“Clowns are inherently creepy.”

They make a big deal of making the lead clown Cheezo act really creepy during their performance.  They don’t linger much on the other clowns but they’re not much better.  Something about the exaggerated movements and facial expressions and the unnaturalness of the face paint, I guess.  I started to wonder if the killers had already taken over the clowns’ identities.

“Ok Horror movie, you’re not supposed to evoke sympathy.  I’m not used to this.”

I suffer a lot from anxiety in public and especially anytime when I feel like I might be the center of attention or close to it.  If I was late to church as a teenager I would just not go rather than walk in and feel the stares of everybody around me.  I imagine that basically having a nervous breakdown due to being simultaneously confronted by clowns and public disgrace would have broken me permanently.  So I sympathize with the main character who is understandably distraught.

“You made me like the clowns before you kill them.  Thanks.”

The actors who portrayed the clowns are really, really good at being scary.  However, when we see them briefly during their downtime they are really fun to watch.  The lead clown is basically Ron Perlman with grease paint halfway removed from his face.  I honestly would have watched a movie about being in the circus starring these three clowns.  Too bad.  They must die.

“Kid terrified by clowns attracts killer clowns.”

Seriously, it must be like when you’re allergic to cats and all the cats want to say hello to you.   It doesn’t help that they take turns telling killer clown scary stories to further summon the villains.  Hurray for horror movie tropes!

“This movie is cliche city!”

The hero utters the phrase ‘We’ll be right back.’ several times.  A character keeps singing a song called ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ which later comes out of a radio.  The protagonist spots the killers and when he tries to show his brothers they’re gone.  A character utters the line ‘Is someone in here?’ in a dark room.   Still, there’s a lot of fairly inventive stuff in the movie as well that I won’t spoil.  It just makes me roll my eyes but I guess it’s in a good way.

“So much good pantomime in this.  I’m starting to get legitimately creeped out.”

Great choice making the killers absolutely silent.  It could have ruined everything if they all acted like the Joker or Freddy Krueger.  Or it could have been awesome.  I guess we’ll never know.   The soundtrack adds a lot with semi-distorted circus music that makes my blood pressure spike a bit.

“Wow. Didn’t see that coming.”

I won’t spoil it but holy shit.  This just got real.  Oh wait, never mind no it didn’t.  Still, this is actually a great little horror movie.

“Shit did get real.”

Yeah, I tend to drop off from commenting somewhere in the last third of a movie if it’s any good.  It’s so easy to get sucked into a good movie.

All in all, I would recommend this little horror movie to any of my fellow horror fans.  The movie gave me goosebumps but was just lighthearted enough that it wasn’t one note.  The child actors aren’t ridiculously awful and in fact show flashes of brilliance and actually help carry the film.  As I mentioned, the pantomime is really, really good and what is usually done for laughs ends up being legitimately scary.  In fact, they get a lot of their scares by appropriating comedy routines and twisting them into horror.  Of course, without the soundtrack, this movie would not have been half as scary.   I watched the whole thing on Youtube so I know you can too.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Creepiness

May 22, 2014

WILPW

I have very fond memories of watching wrestling on Monday nights (and eventually Thursday nights) and being creeped the hell out by some of the more spooky denizens of sports entertainment.   I would have been on the edge of my seat if I had not been sitting on the floor.  Sure I thought wrestling was real for a bit when I first got into it but I quickly smartened up.  Still, like all the horror movies I loved, I could get sucked in and my heart would start pounding and I would lean in.  It was alright, because I knew the babyface (good guy) was always going to win.

I am only making a statement about the performers and clips I chose.  The performers are the ones that stuck out in my mind and the clips are frankly subject to what is on youtube.  I briefly worried that my lists so far are mostly comprised of WWE talent.  There is a reason for that.  WWE is what I grew up with so there’s something to be said about brand loyalty.  I watch ROH and TNA but the first’s production values aren’t good enough to allow for creepiness and TNA is mostly too cartoony to be anything but laughable.

I read a lot about creepy/scary WCW performers but I did not watch much WCW back in the day since the DVR had not been invented yet.  When I watch WCW now, I find myself so removed from it because I have read so many stories about the old days.  For instance, I hear that Vampiro was scary but I just don’t see it, especially after reading Chris Jericho’s first book.  I hear Kevin Sullivan was creepy but everything I read just sounds silly.  Anyway,  here are some examples of stuff that creeped or weirded me out.

Undertaker
Entrance Music from the Ministry Days

Hands down, when I was scared while watching Monday Night Raw, it was probably the Undertaker who was the culprit.  I mean, it’s enough that he can do that trick where you roll your eyes back and leave just the whites of your eyes showing.   Add onto that his habit of taking horrible punishment and then just sitting up like a vampire in a coffin and you start getting nervous.  He has come back from the dead on at least two occasions and slowly became a legendary, elemental force rather than a man.  He was especially creepy during the period where he took on satanic overtones and became more ruthless.  He gained the power to convert people into members of his “Ministry” and mind control is one of the things in fiction that scares me most.   Sure his mistique has faded heavily as he has aged but still, when the gong hits and the lights go out for his entrance, I get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

The Boogeyman

I fully admit to being creeped out and weirded out by The Boogeyman when he first showed up on Smackdown to terrorize people.  The way he would show up suddenly and stare and sing innocent songs in a very creepy way was actually legitimately creepy.  He looked and sounded unbalanced and seemed to have access to anywhere in the arenas that WWE visited.  He also ate worms and moved his body like a crazy person.   The only problem with the Boogeyman is that the spent a lot of money and time on promoting him and giving him a huge crazy entrance.  They did not actually train him to be that good in the ring.  Maybe his gimmick prevented him from really showing his stuff but he kind of went over like a fart in church.  Still, while it lasted, it was fun to see him preying on the heels on the roster and he was definitely memorable.

Bray Wyatt

Now, I am currently 31 years old and this guy still scares me a bit even almost a year after his debut.   See, Bray Wyatt is the leader of the Wyatt Family which is a backwoods cult with vaguely Cthulu leanings.  I mean, the guy calls himself “Bray Wyatt, Eater of Worlds” and claims to be more monster than man.  He speaks cryptically about changing the world but in order to change the world, he must first watch it burn.   He has two “sons” in Luke Harper and Eric Rowan who are both just as crazy as he is.  Luke Harper speaks the Wyatt gospel whenever he can with a glossy-eyed, adoring look on his face.  Eric Rowan wears a sheep mask and so far has only spoken one word: “Run.”.  They are beholden to a mysterious “Sister Abigail” and much of their story is still shrouded in mystery.   I find myself curious but also I don’t think I really want to know.

Samuel Shaw

Hey, a TNA guy.  The rest of the guys on this short list are all supernatural, spooky bad guys but that is not what Samuel Shaw is all about.  He is that guy you might have met who is a little too focused and maybe the words come out of his mouth at a different rythym.  The gimmick here seems to have a healthy dose of Dexter and then you throw in every crazy ex-boyfriend who was ever served a restraining order.  He is obsessed with Christy Hemme and stalked her for months.  He was not able to take no for an answer and pummeled anybody who so much as looked at her.   Who knows what he would have done had he caught her.   My mom always used to say that horror films like Cujo scared the crap out of her as a little girl because they were plausible.  Maybe that’s why Samuel Shaw is so creepy.


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