Posts Tagged ‘Halloween 2016’

Halloween 2016 Wrap-Up

November 5, 2016

wrapup-2016

I was feeling some post-Halloween blues so I thought I would write a wrap up past so I can put this year’s Halloween in the grave. I liked the crop of movies that I picked this year. My only problem is that there are so many movies to choose from and availability limits what I watch. This blog is a labor of love for me and believe me when I say I love doing it. I picked the best of the movies that I could get cheaply. I do not regret watching a single movie on the list below because all of them were what Halloween is about. Below, I have written each movie and my final star rating for each movie along with a rating so the squeamish are warned.

Every year has some standouts and surprises. The surprises would probably be Deathgasm and Stitches. I had no idea that either was a foreign film and that infused each with a different energy than I expected. Deathgasm is totally metal and was a lot of crazy fun. Stitches was kind of a weird punk rock version of Nightmare on Elm Street with a bit of Krampus thrown in. Krampus was also great and probably had the best art direction this year. Foreign films dominated this year and I love that because I have really started expanding my selection by working on this blog. I tend to prefer horror movies with comedy mixed in and I love the arc of the month from PG to R. The month just got darker as it continued but still remained fun.

Incidentally, while most of the movie is kind of boring, I was definitely chilled to the bone by the ending of The Houses That October Built. It was that hopeless ending filled with nothing but despair and hoping for a mid-credits scene showing it was all a joke. Two days later, my brother called me and asked if I wanted to go to a haunted house that night. Instantly, the plot of the movie flashed through my mind and I said no. Later, I felt a little silly so I said yes and it was on. I was scared as Hell but my brother and I resolved to go ahead with it. We visited Nevermore Haunt in the heart of Baltimore City and experienced a really fun but frightening haunted house. I still feel inspired from that brief bolt through a once-abandoned warehouse. I want to design my own haunt and I may do so here in this blog where I share mostly everything.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the main posts for Halloween including my original stories. It is followed by this year’s Halloween benediction. However, in my world, Halloween never dies so be prepared for other stuff to pop up throughout the year.

Invaders from Mars (1986)
3/5 Stars – Rated PG

Goosebumps (2015)
3/5 Stars – Rated PG

Deathgasm (2015)
5/5 Stars – Not Rated

The Raven (1963)
4/5 Stars – Rated G

Re-Animator (1985)
4/5 Stars – Rated R

Krampus (2015)
5/5 Stars – Rated PG-13

Horror Express (1972)
4/5 Stars – Rated R

Stitches (2012)
5/5 Stars – Rated R

Bad Taste (1987)
4/5 Stars – Unrated

The Host (2006)
5/5 Stars – Rated R

Mother’s Day (1980)
3/5 Stars – Rated R

The Houses October Built (2014)
2/5 Stars – Unrated

Phantasm Ravager (2016)
4/5 Stars – Unrated

Night Watch (2004)
4/5 Stars – Rated R

The Hunger (1983)
3/5 Stars – Rated R

Fright Night 2 (1988)
3/5 Stars – Rated R

Stories:
Wicked Journals 1 
Wicked Journals 2
Wicked Journals 3 
Wicked Journals 4

Awakening in Neptune 
Root of all Darkness

Top 11 Horror Villains

 

Fright Night 2 (1988)

October 31, 2016

For a couple of years running, I have participated in a good friend’s family tradition. Three years in a row, I have watched the original Fright Night at their house. The movie is cheesy as heck but it really is a near perfect, extremely nostalgic horror movie. It pays tribute to the time-honored tradition of horror hosts. It also gave us another reason to love to hate Chris “Prince Humperdinck” Sarandon. It had every box checked off on the checklist of Eighties horror adventure movies. It is a close cousin to The Monster Squad but is a little more adult. I have the advantage of seeing the movie a few times but I have yet to see the sequel. I have seen the remake (but also not the sequel to the remake). I suppose it is time to fix that.

They say there is bliss in ignorance and while this may be true, there is also safety in ignorance. If you do not know about the monsters then you have no inclination to get between them and their prey. More importantly, if you know about the monsters, then they probably know about you. This is not good for your long-term health and happiness. It is better not to know but when you know, there is a moral duty to act. Those who stand idly by and let the monsters have their meal are doomed to regret it for the rest of their life. The rest of their life is probably going to be short because they are probably the next meal. However, when there is a moral duty to act against supernatural creatures, you are going to have a bad time. So let us talk about Peter and Charley’s bad time.

The movie starts approximately three years after the events of Fright Night. Obviously, nobody believed Peter Vincent or Charley Brewster about the incidents surrounding Jerry Dandridge. Supposedly, Amy is languishing in some insane asylum somewhere. We are deep in the Eighties still and deep in time of horror hosts and strange fashions. I really like the setup for this movie because it deals with what happens after the hero’s big epic adventure. It also doubles down on the original movie’s premise which every good sequel does. Brad Fiedel is the composer of all of the incidental music and the score and he did a great job. His iconic synth and guitar riffs are so memorable just like in the first film. Once again the makeup and practical effects are great in the tradition of the first movie and other iconic Eighties horror movies. The lighting and set decoration are on point again as well. It did feel like there was a little too much dry ice in this one which is saying a lot considering the original.

William Ragdale plays Charley again and he is once again both relatable and kind of a dick. He is your typical teenage boy who is a little too much in his own head and up his own ass but now he also has trauma from vampires. Peter Vincent is still the foremost member of his own fan club. Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent was kind of the heart and soul of the first movie along with Chris Sarandon so it was great to see him return. In the end, there should have been more Peter and less Charley in this movie. Tracy Lind plays Alex who is a much more proactive female lead whereas Amy spent a lot of time just whining. The new vampires are intriguing and definitely as Eighties as Jerry Dandridge was. Julie Carmen as Regine is particularly charming and fun. I also have to give a shout out to the unique look and understated acting of Brian Thompson as Bozworth as well.

Overall, it was a pretty good sequel of a movie that is very iconic in my mind. It is not as well-paced as the original but that was a hard act to follow. This movie walks some of the same paths that the original movie but it also explores some new territory as well. We see the vampires pulling a lot of new tricks but also a lot of Jerry’s tricks as well. It also includes the unforgettable vampire bowling scene. There was one particular plot point that impressed me heartily but I cannot spoil it for you. It was a good attempt but it was probably a good thing that this movie ended the franchise (until the remakes). This one would be interesting to fans of the original but that morbid curiosity does not extend to people who did not see the original. For that reason, I cannot recommend it although I did enjoy it.

The Hunger (1983)

October 31, 2016

We lost David Bowie this year. Bowie was a magical, mystical being of light, shadow and music even without being on film. Putting him in movies as a natural move that, among other things, gave us the Goblin King who was the anti-hero of The Labyrinth. He released an album the day after he died. He was obviously a well-loved demigod and, like many other people, I wanted to pay tribute to him. Now, when the wound is no longer fresh, I wanted to watch one of his most famous horror roles. I think we all kind of thought that David Bowie was an immortal beauty anyway. Besides, this is another movie that it is probably hard to believe I have not seen. The Hunger is a cult film although some of its stars are not too keen on it. Even David Bowie loves it but thinks it might be too bloody.

David Bowie’s contemporary and collaborator Freddie Mercury once sang “Who wants to live forever?” Of course, most of us would raise our hand before we hear the rest of the deal out. Eternal life is attractive when we all fear death but there is no such thing as a free lunch. Vampirism often comes with a dramatic loss of quality of life. When you have to hunt for sentient beings in order to obtain your next meal, your social standing and sanity come into question. There is also a burden of secrecy along with that eternal life. Also, there is no promise of a good and happy eternal life. It is definitely a deal that would give me pause but it is hard to accept.

This movie was immediately more punk rock and new wave than pretty much anything I reviewed this month. I mean we start with the song “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” as sung by Bauhaus in the middle of a club atmosphere. There are plenty of sunglasses and spiky hair and I dig it. This is a sexier vampire movie but is way trippier than most stuff I have seen. The beginning felt kind of like a music video but it definitely set the tone for what I was about to see. There are a lot of fast edits and artsy shots used in the film that ends up being very disorienting which is not a bad thing for a horror film. They definitely knew how to set a tone in this movie. I guess if I had to apply a label to this movie it would probably be New Wave Goth.

Bowie is on point in this movie. He is great as a brooding vampire which is not far from what we all thought he might be. Bowie is just an impossibly charming performer who had an iconic look and it is impossible to look at anybody else when he is on the screen. Catherine Deneuve plays Bowie’s vampire paramour but she is actually more of a main character than he is. She is stunningly beautiful and she has such an alluring voice to go with some amazing eyes. I certainly believed that she was a powerful, ageless vampire. They both also really successfully portray how bored vampires must be after centuries of life. Susan Sarandon plays a human doctor who gets wrapped up in a relationship with both vampires. She plays her part straight and is actually the most fascinating character to me because she is the outsider among outsiders.

Overall this is a really weird vampire movie. Most vampire movies follow a victim trying to protect themselves from a vampire attack but this movie is different. This follows the lives of the vampires just as much and maybe more than the humans. It is definitely intended as a more erotic film but most of that is more implied than explicitly shown. The camera lovingly lingers on details in a very beautiful yet creepy way. The makeup effects are very well done and they use a very Jaws method of hiding the monster when it comes to vampires in this movie. I also have to applaud the LGBTQ and addiction issues brought up in the movie as well. It is definitely something different from a lot of what I watch but I still recommend it because it is so different.

Night Watch (2004)

October 31, 2016

The Other can be a frightening concept. As I have discussed before, The Other is anything that is not us. In this movie, “The Other” is anything beyond our normal natural world. This is even more frightening because it comes from a world of secrets and the unknown. Generally, ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds violence and hate. Not knowing what was out in the darkness and why bad things happened gave birth to folktales and religion. Both have their bogeymen who we are told we should fear and perform rituals to protect ourselves from what goes bump in the night. We also are told often to embrace a duality and are told that picking a side will protect us and empower us. However, in the old tales often neither side was really the good guys. If you look at most material covering faeries, both courts are to be marveled at but also feared. Looking at things as Light and Dark without seeing the Gray is dangerous. However, the great thing about fiction is that they can often simplify things so that evil is evil and good is good.

I have been thinking about what makes a monster in these tales of supernatural horror. Do we do bad things because we are a monster or are we a monster because we do bad things? Freddy Krueger was a horrible human being even before he became a dream demon. However, in the Buffyverse, the very act of becoming a vampire removes the soul and usually turns a person evil. Our justice system says that we are innocent until proven guilty. Religion says that it is our actions that define us and not our thoughts. So if you are a vampire who refuses to feed on humans, are you a monster? I think not. However, just watching and experiencing the misdeeds of others can be enough to darken the soul. Police officers and military are often as irreparably changed as gang members and other violent criminals. Hunting vampires can be almost as troubling as being one.

We have yet another foreign horror movie which makes it the sixth of sixteen reviews this year. This one is Russian and might just be the first pure Russian movie I have watched outside of a certain Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. Yet again, this means that I have no preconceived notions about any of the actors in this movie. The movie stars Konstantin Khabensky as Anton, a man who basically tracks monster criminals on behalf of the Light side. I like how Anton is not perfect and his journey on behalf of the Light is plagued by the temptation of evil. He is a great example of the reluctant hero. I like to think that even when pressed, we are all the reluctant hero. Nobody gets supernatural abilities and suddenly leaps up excited to risk their life. Anton and everybody he meets is  hardened by life outside the norm where things are more dangerous.

I really liked the visuals in this movie. Everything is bleak from the very beginning of the movie. The world is full of shadows and muted colors and light is almost a godsend. Even in sunlight, everything is just dark and dangerous looking. It makes light and splashes of color a very welcome contrast. I really love the digital effects of the supernatural world. I especially loved how various vampiric powers and abilities are depicted. For example, vampiric vision makes everything but the veins of a human body invisible, making it easier to feed. There is also some great drawn animation which makes some of the exposition easier to get through. The editing is smooth and keeps the movie clipping along at a pretty good pace. The action is easy to understand and the subtitles made the Russian language clear.

Overall this is a pretty good horror adventure movie. The depiction of the supernatural world just beyond our natural one is one of the most interesting examples I have seen in pop culture. The movie was the top grossing film in Russian history when it was released but the record has since been topped. It is also one of the first Russian blockbusters after the fall of Soviet cinema and is therefore automatically a success. The movie has some great ideas but I would say its only sin is that it is too long. It incorporates two plots that do not ever fully connect. However, I feel like the world building and character work mostly make up for this. I would recommend watching this movie because it is so different in how it depicts the creepier side of things.

Phantasm: Ravager (2016)

October 28, 2016

I vividly remember when I saw Phantasm II. I used to hang out with a theater group called Mobtown Players (they still exist). On my birthday, they were going to take me to Bengies Drive-in Theater to see something but it was closed. As we have discussed, my birthday is in December when a lot of fun things are closed either for it being cold or because it is close to the holidays. As a plan B, we went to the now defunct Blockbuster Video and it was suggested we get Phantasm II. I was dubious because I had not heard of the franchise but I relented because I trusted my friends. So, I sat down with a bunch of people twice my age to watch a horror movie I had never heard of. I had also not seen the first movie and I still have not. I was thoroughly creeped out and spooked and thankful for a good birthday suggestion. In the tradition of watching these movies out of order, let us watch the last one now. (By ‘us’ I mean me and maybe you later after you have read this paragraph)

The series has a lot to do with funeral homes and dealing with the dead. The main villain is early on posing as a funeral director after all. Funeral homes scare the crap out of me. They represent real death to me instead of Halloween or Hollywood death. Real death is maddeningly scary. The final curtain and its reminders are something that nobody really wants to think about for long. Funeral homes are quiet and funeral home directors are suspect. I am sure that most of them are fine human beings but they deal with the dead all the time and I feel like I do not want to know them. Dead bodies are creepy too. The fact that we dress them up and put makeup on them is kind of weird when you think about it too much. I can deal with a funeral but a wake fills me with despair and fear though obviously, I can deal with it if I need to. It is that fear that we push through because we are there to honor our fallen loved ones and continue the mourning process. We deal with death because it is an inevitable end to every life. We fear it because it is easier than being sad about it, I guess.

The tone of the movie is set instantly in the very first scene of the movie. This is an action horror franchise. This movie is not about people getting stalked by the things that bump in the night but is instead about a war against the supernatural. For people who have not seen the other movies or people who have not seen them in a while, there is a brief recap Army of Darkness style. This is handy since I am kind of in both categories. The film is shot excellently and might just have the best cinematography of the month. At least, I really got excited about the lighting design in particular. The movie’s hero is Reggie who has been a main character since the first movie. That first movie was 37 years ago so Reggie (played by Reggie Bannister) has some years on him. He is an everyman hero and is less than smooth and more than personable. I instantly liked the guy again, kind of like every time I see Ash Williams or John McClane. His journey in this movie is not what I expected and deals a lot with what an aging hero might deal with and the problems associated with people of an older persuasion. Though, the series has had some dalliances with the “just a dream” trope before.

Of course, the main focus of the franchise has always been The Tall Man, the silver spheres and the Lurkers. The spheres are about 4 inches in diameter and look like polished stainless steel. They look harmless but quickly prove that they are anything but. I have had nightmares about those little silver spheres. The Lurkers are human beings compressed into vicious dwarf-like creatures. The main villain of the series is The Tall Man who is played by Angus Scrimm. Mr. Scrimm died this year after being in a lot of horror movies but The Tall Man was his most iconic role. He is grim looking and his lightly accented voice sounds like both death and evil. Scrimm is used excellently near the end of his life. The years had taken their toll and he looked even more like a weird corpse than ever before. This is his swan song and it shows in his performance, Reggie’s performance and the plot of the movie. We finally get a bit more of the mythos behind the weird dimensional powers that The Tall Man controls. We also get some interesting time travel motifs as well which fits with the general feel I remember.

Overall, this is a great finale for a horror franchise that has quietly plodded on since 1979. Horror movies have very particular fans and if the movie does not remain in theaters then the mainstream forgets it immediately. Loving horror (or any fandom) is kind of like living in an alternate dimension very close to the mainstream one. There are a lot of franchises that are a big deal but nobody you talk to on the street knows about them. You probably should not be talking to people on the street anyway. I recommend it but you should probably watch the first four movies to get the full effect.

Media Update 10/27/2016

October 27, 2016


Demonic Toys

Once upon a time, I watched a movie called Puppetmaster vs. Demonic Toys because I’m a fan of the Puppetmaster series. I vaguely understood what was happening with the Demonic Toys half of the movie but I knew that at some point I wanted to watch the original movie. The movie is kind of a blend of Child’s Play and Puppetmaster as demons possess toys and alter them into something less childlike and more murderous. There is also a little bit of Rosemary’s Baby and some Evil Dead thrown in as well. Of course, this is the kind of movie to have more than one clown face in it. This movie is another good example of what I love about Full Moon Entertainment. The movie is cheap but it is obvious there is a lot of charm and heart put into it. It is cheesy but it is also obvious that it’s supposed to be cheesy. The practical effects are actually really good and so is the gore. The puppetry and the construction of the toys is surprisingly really expressive and creepy. They work to turn a lot of toys into something demonic and trippy. Of course, I always thought baby dolls were creepy anyway. There is also some pretty good stop motion animation which isn’t surprising at all. What is kind of surprising is that this was written by David S. Goyer who wrote the Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel. Weird. I definitely recommend this one as it is short and a pleasant little horror movie.


Bad Channels

Fun fact, this movie has three Blue Oyster Cult songs in it and they scored the film. This was their first foray into the horror genre since Halloween. Though that is such a small movie that I am sure you have not heard of it. This movie is weird even before the aliens actually arrive. This movie is about extraterrestrials who take over a radio station to use the power of rock and roll to try and kidnap Earth women. You know that old chestnut. This is kind of a mix between Hobgoblins, Killer Klowns from Outer Space and UHF. It has the whole Full Moon Entertainment treatment so everything is charmingly goofy although this one is more Sci-fi than Horror. The effects are weird but they really work for this movie. I know Fool Moon’s work by now and I know that they can do really good work (see above) and this is no different. While the premise of the movie is kind of silly, there is a sinister edge to it and it can be pretty creepy. Like Invasion from Mars, this movie also has a lot to say about why nobody would believe you if aliens actually did invade a small town. I guess it also kind of plays with the same concept from the (fictional) panic caused by HG Wells’ War of the Worlds broadcast. Predictably, the soundtrack for this movie is really good. Not only is there great Blue Oyster Cult music but there is also some great Metal from Sykotik Sinfoney as well. There is the usual Full Moon offbeat sense of humor but without the violent edge present in their horror movies. Still, it can be pretty disconcerting. I definitely recommend it even if the professional critics tell you otherwise.


Evil Bong 2: King Bong

It feels like ages ago when I named Evil Bong as one of the worst horror/Halloween movies ever made. It feels like there are not a lot of pot-themed horror movies which is kind of strange. Evil Bong was probably a little too much on the nose. It was a movie about an evil bong that transported people’s souls into the bong and then trapped them there by killing them in their fantasy. Sort of. It was really low budget so everybody’s fantasy was pretty much a weird strip club. The sequel picks up a period of time after the first movie and the victims (who all escaped) find themselves cursed with extreme cases of stereotypical side effects of pot use (horniness, paranoia, binge eating and narcolepsy). They travel to South America to find the source of the evil bong and find magical curative pot. However, they also encounter the remade evil bong and her ex-boyfriend (yep) King Bong. It is about as corny as you’d expect but even though I was rolling my eyes hard during it, I was in a more positive headspace this time. It pretty much ends with a flood of bare-breasted women and too many puns. It is bad but it is not uninterestingly bad, I guess. I do not recommend it but I will probably keep watching this series since I am only three sequels behind. Don’t judge me.

Halloween Short of the Week:
SNL – Haunted Elevator

Music of the Week:
Angel Witch – Dr. Phibes
Battle of Mice – Sleep and Dream
Impetigo – Breakfast At The Manchester Morgue
The Cramps – Zombie Dance
Timeless Miracle-Curse of the Werewolf

Weekly Update:
– I finished Season 11 or Supernatural
– Who am I kidding? There are bare breasts in all of these movies
– Watched more Arrow Season 4 and it just gets better and better
– Watched more Flash Season 2 and it’s great
– I finished watching Luke Cage, stay tuned for my thoughts
– I finished iZombie Season 2 and it’s so good.
– This week’s theme is “Under a Full Moon (Entertainment)”
– I have so many ideas for next year, you guys
– I love Halloween so much

The Houses October Built (2014)

October 26, 2016

I picked this movie at random from the Netflix library which is a tactic that has worked before. That tactic makes it so I have little idea what to expect. This movie is produced by Zack Andrews and Steven Schneider who produced Paranormal Activity, The Devil Inside and The Visit. It should not be a surprise that this film is a found footage movie. I am not a fan of found footage movies which is most often used in the horror genre. You may have noticed that I have not talked much about found footage on this blog before and that is because I usually do not seek them out. Still, I know that the sub-genre is successful so I did not want to dismiss it outright. Found footage (in a first-person viewpoint) works in horror movies much like a haunted house works. Your viewpoint is guided toward specific scares as things jump into your field of vision. It can also be very frightening to feel like you are in the action but cannot control yourself.

I have been fascinated with haunted houses since I first went through one. The first haunted house I ever went through was set up at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Roland Park in Baltimore. There were shadows, dry ice, strobe lights and a ton of jump scares that made me pray for the exit. It would probably seem kind of tame now but it rattled me hard while I was still in elementary school. That seed of interest was planted but it would not really grow until I was a bit braver. My interest in haunted houses mirrored my interest in live theater and theme park attractions. All three of those things are about establishing a story and a mood. You are basically crafting and controlling somebody’s experience without literally pushing them along. I love looking at the costumes and reading narratives from haunted houses and especially the ones that are too far for me to visit. I also love to see how the effects are done.

We start with a lot of probably real interviews and promotional footage concerning fans of haunted houses and workers at haunted houses. These are intercut through a lot of the movie. People get to explain in their own words why they love haunted houses and Halloween in general. It is edited together in a half documentary, half stock footage kind of way. I can definitely agree with this, setting up the premise of the movie. This movie is about how the love of a good scare can go wrong. We never tire of hearing those kinds of stories of people who found the limit of what they love and things go badly. The interviews and news stories do a good job of setting up a foreboding mood. I am not sure how much of it was real and how much of it was produced but it does a good job. The segment also introduces us to what we will be getting for the rest of the movie with the digital effects. There is static, focusing and color adjustment effects applied to the film to mimic what you might see with a camcorder. It is a little bit hokey but it does kind of jangle at my nerves and makes me a little more susceptible to scares.

I did not recognize anyone from the cast in this movie which, as I have stated before, can definitely be a good thing. I could definitely tell that these people are friends even if they are a little bit too bro-esque for my tastes. The acting is pretty good as they are going for realistic reactions and a lot of the time I think the actors had no idea what was going to happen next. Unlike a lot of horror movies that I have seen, there is little internal logic that governs what the scares will be. I guess that makes the movie built like a haunted house in that they try to frighten and surprise you just as much as actually scare you. I am going to do another clown warning here, by the way. I cannot escape clowns this Halloween and I think I might just have to hit the clown stuff even harder next year. It creeps me out. There is a lot of variety in this movie and while it is kind of cheesy in places, that is kind of what good horror movies are about.

Overall, this was a surprisingly good horror movie. The pacing was a bit off but I chalk that up to it being a found footage movie. At least they made a good enough excuse for all of the cameras being present at every moment and did not do another Skype horror movie. This is very close to an actual documentary on haunted houses and that part was really great. The movie kind of just grinds on and on and I wish it would have been paced better. It could not have been much shorter without classifying it as a short film. When the action is rolling, the movie is great but there is a lot of messing around. It is a creepy kind of a jumble sort of like House of a Thousand Corpses but not bad like that movie is. I guess I would recommend it but it would be best put on in the background of a good Halloween party.

Wicked Journals 4

October 25, 2016

wicked-journals

“Where are you going?” Molly asked. She acted as if she did not already know. It was an insult to both of us. It was obvious that I was packing up my tiny university bedroom.

“I am leaving and I’m never coming back,” I replied.

“I am surprised at you, Caleb,” She said. Her disapproving look gave me a moment’s hesitation but I pressed on. She had that effect on me.

“Frankly, I am surprised at you, Molly. Those things we saw were horrible. They were almost beyond belief. I have to leave. I cannot understand why you are staying,” I said. I closed another suitcase full of my possessions.

“Caleb, we saw things few have ever laid their eyes on. I agree that they were terrible but the next find could be fantastic. There is still so much we can learn,” She said.

“Or it could be worse. I cannot take that chance, Molly. We should not take that chance. Nobody should take that chance. Maybe the past is meant to stay buried,” I said. I knew it could be considered an insult to the field of archaeology but it was how I felt.

“We were a team, Caleb. We promised to be there for each other,” She said.

“I remember. That promise was genuine. I still feel the same as I did then but I simply cannot continue. I will not continue, Molly,” I replied.

“I cannot make you stay here. That is still not within my power to do that.” She paused as we both took in what she meant.

“I know. But I still must go. And soon.”

“I guess so.”

*               *              *

I had expected the stone door to shut behind me but it remained open. I am not sure if I liked that idea worse or better than the thought of those things from town following me inside. There was a torch already lit near the door which immediately felt welcoming. I am sure this was not meant to terrify me but it did. How had anyone known that I would get in the door soon enough that the torch would not go out?  How long had it hung on the wall while lit? It raised too many questions that I did not know the answers to.

I walked down a winding path in a tunnel carved out of the rock of the hill. The air was still horrible but I had slowly adapted to it. I hoped I was not breathing in anything dangerous. The tunnel went on forever or close to it but I kept walking. I had already walked for miles during the morning and now my feet began to throb with pain. But still, Molly Price must be just ahead and in need of rescue. I carried on.

What felt like miles later, I looked at the walls of the tunnel and I had to stop for a moment. There were those alien symbols again and they were glowing, reflecting the torchlight as if they were wet. My hand itched, wanting to reach out and touch the symbols but I stopped and pulled back at the last moment. I did not need to know. I needed to carry on.

The tunnel suddenly opened up into a larger chamber. I say suddenly because it had looked like the tunnel would extend another couple of miles. I noticed that there was no sound in the chamber except the sound of my breathing. The air was still and the chamber was far too quiet. Then there was a sort scuttling noise from the ceiling to my right and then to my left and then ahead and behind. I had heard nothing like it before in my life.

“Hello?” I called out. “Is anybody here?”

There was no answer but the scuttling sounds stopped as if they were waiting. I walked further into the chamber and the torch lit up more of it but not the high ceilings. I tore my eyes from that direction and tried to look around. There was a large throne made of what looked like marble with blood red veins in it. There was a female sitting very still on the throne and I hurried forward. It was her but strangely she was still heavily in shadow no matter how close I brought the torch. Her eyes suddenly opened.

“Caleb Newsom, it has been a long time. Ages, I think.” She said.

“If ages are years,” I said. “I missed you. Are you alright? I got your journal, I was afraid something happened to you.” There was urgency in my voice and I realized there was none in hers.

“I have discovered a lot, Caleb. So much I wanted to show you,” Molly said. Except for her eyes and mouth, no part of her had moved yet.

“Molly, something is wrong. You have to tell me,” I said.

Molly turned her head to look at me. The shadows still clung to her as if they were physical attributes. She stood ever so slowly and stepped toward me, I stepped backward. I was nervous. The shadows fell away from her as if she had decided to let the light touch her. I gasped. Parts of her face and her body had been replaced with something I cannot begin to describe. It was monstrous, yet beautiful.

“I was a fool back in school. I thought I could only have a career. Now I realize I can have both the knowledge of the ancients and a man I love.” Her eyelids flicked closed and open again like a scarab’s wings.

“That’s not what I want anymore. Definitely not like this, Molly,” I said. I tried to back away but I heard the scuttling again very close behind me. They were closing in.

“I have so many things to show you,” She said. She smiled and kept advancing.

I hope that nobody ever finds this journal or Molly’s journal. I hope the lilies grow and grow and cover the entrance to this place. I hold out hope for the world.

Mother’s Day (1980)

October 24, 2016

I love my mother. I have been on record stating that before and I do not think is a very controversial statement. I think most people love their mother even if they do not actually like their mother as well. I not only like and love my mother but I trust her. Thankfully, she never abused that trust as I grew up and never told me to do things that I should not. However, there are plenty of people who grow up without learning right from wrong. Their parents, if they were present, plant hate in their hearts instead of love and they grow up trusting that hate more than human kindness. If they were born with empathy, it can be dulled by being taught that only your family’s feelings matter. I have met these people who feel they are right no matter what and even if they were wrong, they still would hurt people. This is a scary notion to think that just down the block or even over your neighbor’s fence, there are people who just do not care. The worst thing is, you cannot spot these people by sight alone.

This movie is written and directed by Charles Kaufman but it is not the Charles Kaufman who wrote Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Adaptation. Instead, this Kaufman is the brother of Lloyd Kaufman who founded Troma Entertainment. You might remember Troma from the Toxic Avenger movies and Cannibal: The Musical. If you are familiar, you know that Troma is one of the most tasteless yet strangely popular film studios in history. Today’s selection is an exploitation film. This means that the violence and gore are usually increased a lot. This movie also has quite a bit of rape in it. Obviously, rape is an unforgivable act and the people who commit it in the movie are evil. They also kill a lot of people. I thought long and hard about including this review but I decided that if I can watch Law and Order: SVU, I can watch this. If you want to refrain from watching this movie or reading this review you would be in good company. Roger Ebert gave this movie zero stars.

As the IMDB description says, this movie is about an elderly mother who raises her two sons to kill. The movie is set at the dawn of the eighties when disco was dying buy cocaine was still on the rise. Thankfully we get a rest from teenagers and college kids as the usual targets of horror movies, especially in the Eighties. Instead, the killers are after women who are at least in their late twenties if not mid-thirties. It also takes place in one of the nicer areas of New Jersey although they definitely make sure to highlight a lot of the crummy parts. They use a lot of fictional place names but some of the areas are definitely familiar or similar enough to the area I lived out in the middle of nowhere in Jersey. The main characters are kind of stupid. Like the grown up characters in It, they have not grown up much. There is a lot of bad Eighties humor and slapstick leading up to the violence.

This movie uses a lot of popular horror movie tropes in it. It has your spooky synth music to mimic Halloween and Friday the 13th. It has the old man warning the victims before they head into danger. It has the tight group of friends who like to play pranks on each other. It has the jumpscares that lead to nothing, jangling your nerves so that you are already unsettled when the bad stuff starts. It has a lot of naked female breasts. It has masked killers and killers with mutated faces. It has vulnerable people out in the wood away from any possible help. All of these familiar elements are both played straight and parodied. There are plenty of moments played for comedy even after the crap hits the fan. The same comic timing is applied to the horror elements but it is not funny. It is all the more terrifying that these people are having a really good time.

Overall, it is not a great movie. However, I think it was worth watching. The rape scenes were mercifully short considering movies like I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left. That does not make them any less disgusting or horrible. The movie is supposed to be scary and awful and it definitely succeeds at that. The actors playing the villains are actually pretty good and terrifying. The titular mother is especially unnerving with her horrible smile and cheery demeanor. The movie is cheap and dirty and that serves it well in some places but not in others. By trying to parody horror movies, it falls into similar traps but there are some new bits that I did not expect. The movie did succeed in its mission as a horror movie and it did provide scares and horror. I would recommend it but only to horror connoisseurs with strong stomachs.

The Host (2006)

October 21, 2016

The environment is becoming a bigger and bigger issue these days. As we explore more and more about it, we learn a little bit more and realize that there is still so much to figure out. Especially deep in the water, there are things that are incredibly alien to us. Some of them are as strange and terrifying to us as any extraterrestrial we might meet from space. These creatures do not know anything about direct human contact and it’s easy to see that they would not fear us. Of course, they should be angry at us at this point. Our species has caused untold devastation on the planet’s ecosystem with development and pollution. We have seen the impact we have had on the parts of the oceans we can explore. What have we done to the parts we can’t see? How would these strange alien creatures respond to our chemical compounds? Would we be prepared to deal with that? All of these are scary questions to consider.

One of the scariest things in our human society is the loss of a child or injury to a child. I do not even really like children but hurting a child is an affront to me. I do not forgive those who intentionally hurt children and I cannot abide by that behavior. Maybe it is part of our human instinct to protect the young in order to keep the species alive which is now rather pointless after population explosion. When a baby cries, you just automatically feel bad. Of course, you cannot help it so you get annoyed at the parents for not helping it quicker. It makes little sense but it always happens to me and I have heard similar accounts. We just do not accept bad things happening to children like we accept bad things happening to adults. We are much more likely to turn a blind eye to an adult in peril but a tragedy with a child will stop the world. Because of that, I get extra antsy when there are kids in a horror movie because I do not want anything to happen to them. They have their lives ahead of them and it is unfair for some demon or beast to change that.

Sometimes, I watch things because they are popular. I see it as atoning for my teenage days when I hated everything that was popular out of spite. This movie was number 41 out of 100 of the best horror movies on IMDB.com and it got a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, the movie comes out of South Korea so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had not seen any other Korean films (North or South). The acting is very good. For the most part, everybody acts pretty much how people do in real life. I have to give a special shout out to Song Kang-ho who plays the father. He is such a relatable and likable buffoon. His daughter is played by Go Ah-sung and she is such a sweet girl that you want to protect her. There is definitely a comedic spin on the proceedings in places but there is also terror, sadness and desperation as well. A good horror movie makes you laugh here and there so it can scare the bejeezus out of you right when you have let your guard down. This movie does that in spades.

The effects are very good in this one. It has the same CGI team as The Day After Tomorrow which had great special effects even though it was a ludicrously bad film. Of course, the monster effects were done by Weta Workshop so we made it all of two days without mentioning them. At the same time, the monster looks like a lot of things we have seen before but also something interestingly unique. Jon Cox powered the creature with beautiful animatronics on par with any movie monster I have ever seen. When it moves, I really believe that it is a danger and an intelligent creature. The government response was believable as well. In a crisis like the one we see, the government would be mostly clueless but would be quick to do something even if it was the wrong thing. I really liked that element as an additional obstacle for the main characters.

Overall, this was a great horror/science fiction movie. There was plenty of comedy but there was even more tragedy and horror involved which ended up being a very compelling blend. There was also a bit of an adventure quality to the movie as a family sets out to save one of their own. There is definitely some anti-American sentiment in the movie but it is balanced well and not without merit. The US military did dump a lot of formaldehyde down the drain in Seoul. Our country is portrayed as butting in just as we probably would in real life. The South Korean government is also portrayed in a negative light so it is impossible for me to get bent out of shape about it. I definitely recommend this movie, especially to any foreign film buffs.


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