Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’

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

October 31, 2020

Ganja and Hess (1973)

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

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

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

The Lost Boys (1987)

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

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

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

Cronos (1993)

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

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

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

You Should Have Left (2020)

October 30, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Lord of Illusions (1995)

October 28, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

The Golem (2018)

October 26, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Aftershocks: Dark Carnival Pt. 4

October 24, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey Killjoy?” Lydia said with a smile.

“What?” Killjoy asked, frustrated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • * *

Killjoy landed in Hell and clutched his head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

October 23, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Media Update 10/22/20

October 22, 2020

Host (2020)

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

Monster Party (2018)

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

Night of the Demons (1988)

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

Music of the Week:

Ninja Sex Party – Thunder and Lightning

Feastie Boys – “What’s Fa Lunch?”

Carpenter Brut – Beware the Beast

Ryan Adams – Halloweenhead

King Diamond – Halloween

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

The Invisible Man (2020)

October 21, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

The Stuff (1985)

October 16, 2020

Every day products can definitely be scary because you never know where danger might be lurking. Recently, I learned of a horrifying story that still baffles me somewhat. This is the story of Scheele’s Green (also known as Schloss Green) was created in the late 18th century. It was a color pigment that was invented in order to achieve a more vibrant green. It was used in interior house paint, clothing dye, accessories, and even sweets. It was very fashionable among women back in its day and it became the go to green color in so many products. There was a big problem, though. Scheele’s Green was a cupric hydrogen arsenate. Wait, what was that last bit? That’s right. One of the chemicals that made up this new green color was arsenic.

The color was literally killing the people who wore it. When this was discovered, people insisted on still using it because how were they to get rid of the color green? It was so fashionable! Even as it caused people to develop skin lesions, vomiting, diarrhea, and even cancer, people could not let it go. It may even have killed Napoleon because every room in the house he was banished to was painted with the stuff. Eventually, society moved beyond Scheele’s Green but it took over a century. There is much to suggest that people only abandoned the pigment because it had a tendency to turn black when exposed to pollutants in the air. It was replaced by cobalt green that was decidedly less poisonous. That was later replaced by chromium oxide which is finally a safe green color.

The first thing I noticed was the sense of humor to the movie. Characters are immediately presented as horror movie dumb in the best ways. We are pretty quickly introduced to a detective character played by Michael Moriarty, a southern gentleman who is looking into a strange mystery. He definitely drives a lot of the movie with his affable charm. The other main character is a little boy played by Scott Bloom who is very interested in solving the same mystery. There is also Andrea Marcovicci who plays a well-meaning ad executive who is on the inside and worried about how things are going. There is also comedy legend Garrett Morris who plays the owner of a family business at the end of his rope. The character actor performances keep the comedy going while things are also decidedly creepy and off. The movie had me laughing hard even while giving me the jibblies.

I really love the cinematography. The camera is so dynamic throughout the movie, never staying still for long but not annoying with any fast cuts. It makes the movie a little unnerving at every step. There are also some really good tense shots with some melodramatic angles which really look good. The practical effects are really jarring and spooky and this is the third body horror movie this week. The effects on the stuff itself are gross, simple, but very good. Somehow they really made a semi-solid paste look alive and moving. There are some scenes with fluids which are really mind-bending. Parts of the movie also felt like Halloween 3 for obvious reasons and that’s a great thing.

Overall, I really liked his movie. It was goofy fun after watching Color Out of Space but still gave me that familiar horror chill. The characters made me laugh while the effects made me squirm which is a great combination. I recommend this movie for sure.

Color Out of Space (2019)

October 14, 2020

The works of HP Lovecraft are starting to make their way back into media. Cosmic horror can be a hard subgenre to deal with. A lot of the ideas are so big that it can be hard to focus a story around them. In addition, until the mid eighties, the special effects were just not up to the level needed to deal with the crazy visuals in cosmic horror stories. Most of the movies and television bits that dealt with Lovecraft in some way only made a splash with horror fans. However, it feels like they are bleeding a bit into the mainstream. Lovecraft Country is popular on HBO, combining stories of racism and cosmic horror. Now a big budget, released-in-theaters adaptation has been released starring Nicholas Cage of all people. With this, I have to do my duty and put out a little PSA. HP Lovecraft was a horrible racist. He was such a horrible racist. He named his black cat the N-word. Italians were too dark for him. He detested anybody foreign and thought people of color were scary and unnatural. It unfortunately colored a lot of his work. Death of the Author says that this should not matter but hopefully those who continue to adapt his works will leave his racism behind.

A lot of Lovecraftian horror has a lot to do with unfeeling and indifferent horrors. The Elder Gods are so powerful and huge that they barely notice humanity even when some of them are worshipers. Unlike many other deities, they do not prize humanity for any reason. Humans are viewed largely as an unintended side effect of the cosmic machinations of the gods. Other myths state that humanity and all of existence are actually the dream of one the Elder Gods. This is one of many reasons why meddling with these forces often drive people insane. Interactions with cosmic forces are always bad and, at best, end with the protagonist barely surviving but forever changed. One day the elder gods will wake up and existence will fade away like a forgotten dream. In the meantime, interactions with these forces cause a lot of body horror and madness.

The first thing I noticed was the wonderful score which invoked tension and sadness at the same time. The cinematography is also top notch as each shot looks absolutely gorgeous. The movie makes really good use out of weather effects like fog to create a really good atmosphere. The titular color is super eerie and the light and color effects are so good. Like any good horror movie, the sound design is so good. The camera work, lighting, and sound all work together to demonstrate the horror but also the family’s mental state. The special effects when the actual horror starts are so good and absolutely chilling. It makes sense as the director has been in the business of horror for decades and knows how to utilize both computer effects and practical effects. The effects are right up there with similarly styled horror movies like The Thing, Reanimator, and Evil Dead but the technology has gotten so much better.

The acting is also notable. Nicolas Cage plays the patriarch of a family who lives out in the sticks. He is quirky and the type who is always trying new things while bending over backward to please his family. His daughter is played by Madeleine Arthur, a snarky teen girl. His wife is played by Joely Richardson, a woman distracted by her high-powered job which she must now do out in the sticks. Their sons are played by Brendan Meyer and Julian Hilliard, the latter getting to do the creepy kid in a horror movie schtick. Elliot Knight plays a young hydrologist there to do a survey of the water. He is the audience surrogate in some ways and the narrator of the story. Everybody’s performance is so good. We see everyone decline throughout the movie and it makes sense that the director was drawing on Nicolas Cage’s performance from Vampire’s Kiss.

Overall, I loved this movie and feel irrevocably changed from having watched it. The director is Richard Stanley whose movie Hardware I have always wanted to obtain a copy of. He has not made a movie since the disastrous production of The Island of Dr. Moreau which briefly damaged his sanity. He is on board with making more of these movies and I cannot wait to see his takes on classic Lovecraft tales. I really recommend this movie.

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