Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’

Media Update 11/7/19

November 7, 2019


What We Do In the Shadows

I was a big fan of the movie when I watched it last year and when I heard it was going to series, I was really happy. Even when I heard that the original cast was not coming back, I was still looking forward to it. I love the world that they built in the original and I love the chance to see more of it. The series is once again a mockumentary about a house full of vampires. Kayvan Novak plays Nandor, a Turkish vampire who is obsessed with protocol but is very awkward in social situations. Matt Berry (a favorite of mine) plays Lazlo, an English noble vampire who is perverted and boorish. Natasia Demetriou is so good as Nadja, a playful dreamer of a vampire. The surprise of the show is Mark Proksch who plays a nerdy psychic vampire named Colin who does not fit in. Also, a great part of the ensemble is Harvey Guillén who plays familiar Guillermo, a long-suffering human servant and buttmonkey. Each episode takes kind of a sitcom plot and messes with it and parodies it as we watch the shenanigans ensue. I definitely recommend this show.


The Exorcist

Obviously, the Exorcist is a classic horror movie. It takes a very grounded situation and injects the demonic and the supernatural in a way that makes it believable and compelling. This extends to the television show as we are presented with a new story of demonic possession but with a few new quirks. We are also once again presented with an old priest (Ben Daniels) and a young priest (Alfonso Herrera) trying to navigate Church politics while also facing off against the forces of darkness. I am still on the first season but I love the family we are following. The mother, barely holding it together, is played by the wonderful Geena Davis. The father is played by Alan Ruck, confused and suffering from mental problems. The older sister who is dealing with her own personal tragedy is played by Brianne Howey. The younger sister is played by Hannah Kasulka, trying to hold her family together. I definitely recommend this show.


Scream

I feel like this show was able to capture the fun energy of the original Scream but give it some new life. The show, like the movie, is very meta and the characters look at everything with a genre savviness that colors all of their actions. It follows a high school in a small town where everybody knows everybody. Years before, a teen mass murderer struck the town. Now, a killer is stalking the teens again and wears a mask similar to the original killer. Is it the same person or is it a copycat? The show is a mystery that explores teenage social structures but also tackles subjects like cyberbullying, digital media, and peer pressure. It is an interesting take on the niche subgenre that Wes Craven popularized. While it is not as wacky as Scream Queens, it has a lightness that keeps the story moving. I recommend this show too.

 

Music of the Week:
Lindsey Stirling feat Amy Lee – Love Goes On and On

The Struts – Tatler Magazine

Ashnikko – STUPID Feat. Yung Baby Tate

Lizzo – Good As Hell (feat. Ariana Grande)

Night Club – Candy Coated Suicide

 

Weekly Update (for this and last week):
– This week’s theme is “Halloween Hangover 2019”
or “Horror Movies Made Into TV”
– I started watching The Good Place Season 3
– I started Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 2
– I started Bob’s Burgers Season 6
– I watched more Blindspot Season 2
– I watched Manos: Hands of Fate (Rifftrax)
– I watched Evil Bong 420
– I watched more Carmen Sandiego Season 2
– I watched more Scream Queens Season 1
– I watched more Blue Bloods Season 9
– I finished The Blacklist Season 6
– I finished Agents of SHIELD Season 6
– I finished Supergirl Season

Halloween Wrap-up 2019

November 4, 2019

I’m just going to take a moment here to reflect on my recent Halloween event. I think it went really well this year. The event took off last year with October getting almost five times the traffic it had gotten in 2017. The traffic was just a little bit higher this year. Not that I do this for the traffic but it is very gratifying to see that people are reading my ramblings. I already have more traffic so far this year than the entire year last year with two more months to go. I am happy that people are reading and enjoying things.

So all of that aside, I really enjoyed the movies this year. I used to want to curate the movies I review instead of just watching what I want to. Now I just try to pick what sounds like fun to watch but I also want to push myself and try new things. Also, with reviews also being personal posts, I need to pick things I can write about. The other thing that I realized is that there is a multitude of horror movies I want to watch. I could not possibly watch them all in October. So, I may want to pepper a few during the year. I also realized that I can watch dumb throwaway movies without writing about them.

I really enjoyed writing the latest installment in the story of Nancy and Lydia. I really enjoy my alternate universe fanfiction world but I have an intense desire to rewrite large portions of it. Maybe I will eventually. I feel like the main arc of the series is taking shape and I want to focus on that. I really enjoyed taking from the lore of Wizard of Oz and exploring it a bit. Although, it made me want to write more about it but in a completely different way. I might have to write some fic on that later. I have a lot of planning before I continue the series next year but I have so many ideas.

So thank you for a wonderful Halloween! As for the day itself, I worked all day and then went to my cousin’s house. The yearly tradition of going over there and watching Fright Night is still intact. This was the 10th time for me but the 33rd time for her. At this point, everybody talks and snarks during the movie but we all love it. It is a great movie that I suggest everybody sees. It is definitely in my top 20 favorite horror movies. Anyway, after Thursday I will relent and move on toward the lesser holidays of the year. I guess I should start thinking about Christmas shopping.

Top 11 Favorite Horror Movies

November 2, 2019

I have done one of these Top 11 lists before but I have watched more movies since and I kind of did not take the last time seriously. I have talked about all of these movies previously so I will be brief. This time, to help me feel this list out, I used three categories to judge each movie. The first is “Enjoyment during the first watch”, the second is “Rewatchability”, and the last is the “Spookiness level”. All three are my personal feelings and are rated on a 1 – 5 scale.


11. Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
E: 4 – R: 5 – S: 1

This movie is not really scary at all to me because it is so silly, as the franchise got crazier as it went on. Still, I love sitting back and watching this one. It is my go-to Jason movie. A lot of Jason’s unspoken magical powers really awaken in this movie. His movie editing-based powers. This movie is basically Jason attacking a whole bunch of high school kids on a boat cruise that somehow goes from Crystal Lake to Manhattan? Sort of? Just don’t think about it.


10. Train to Busan
E: 4 – R: 3 – S: 3

Watching this movie energized me as it is an interesting take on zombie movies with plenty of dark comedy, scares, and heart-breaking drama. It is definitely full of dread and I enjoyed it heartily but I hesitate to rewatch it because it has a lot of pathos. This movie is about people on a passenger train in Korea when they start to notice an infection spreading. If that is not scary enough, the main character is an elementary school-aged girl.


9. Terrifier
E: 4 – R: 2 – S: 5

This was another movie that surprised me as it was immediately unnerving and never let up. I do not want to give anything special away from this one. However, the plot is a couple of young ladies who are stalked by a demented clown named Art. It is not one I want to rewatch as I feel like I took it all in on the first pass.


8. Halloween 3: Season of the Witch
E: 4 – R: 3 – S: 3

This movie is an anomaly which is why it probably caught me off guard. This was the first and only Halloween franchise movie without Micahel Myers. It is really spooky, full of plenty of gross-out moments and also horrible terror and dread. The story here is that an evil businessman is going to use the holiday of Halloween itself to exact his revenge on the world and bring about a brand new age.


7. Us
E: 5 – R: 4 – S: 3

This one is still fresh in my mind and I absolutely adore it for its character design and the ideas behind it. You have probably seen the trailers, it is about a family that meets their doppelgangers and all hell breaks loose. I enjoyed it from bell to bell and I really do want to watch it again to see if I can catch more details. It radiates with dread.


6. The Thing (1982)
E: 4 – R: 3 – S: 5

This movie is infinitely rewatchable because of the interesting characters and the tense interactions between them. It was an interesting idea when the first movie in 1951 first explored it but John Carpenter took it to the next level. Kurt Russel and Keith David are really great but the stars of the show are the awesome special effects and the unique setting.


5. Get Out
E: 4 – R: 4 – S: 4

The movie that took the world by storm, there was no doubt that this movie would be somewhere on this list. The smart writing, interesting characters, and terrifying concept make this one that I could watch over and over. Still, I am breathing hard by the end of it. Jordan Peele is doing awesome.


4. Cabin in the Woods
E: 5 – R: 5 – S: 3

This one is a movie that I also really do not want to spoil a bit. Basically, it is a take on the usual tropes of horror movies while still churning out a scary movie. The movie is full of scares but it is the sharp comedy mixed in that makes me want to rewatch it.


3. The Shining
E: 4 – R: 5 – S: 4

A true American classic, the Shining is the pinacle of Stephen King movies. This movie is full of Stanley Kubrick’s ridiculous amounts of detail to the point that he almost made a whole new story. His dream-like imagery is something to behold. It is a terrifying story that feels like it could really happen. A writer brings his family along with him as he operates as the caretaker of a hotel during its offseason.


2. Evil Dead 2
E: 5 – R: 5 – S: 3

Speaking of comedy mixed with horror, Sam Raimi was somehow inspired by Three Stooges shorts to mix that with a classic-style horror movie. The movie’s gruesome effects and pulse-pounding visuals really kept my blood up. However, it is the endlessly charismatic Bruce Campbell who makes me keep coming back to the franchise.


1 . A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors
E: 5 – R: 5 – S: 4

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Freddy Krueger movies as the dream imagery really lends itself to absolutely terrifying moments. There are times that one of them will randomly flash into my mind’s eye and a chill will travel down my spine. I love Freddy so much. Teens inside of a mental hospital have to deal with the legendary dream demon.

Basket Case (1982)

October 31, 2019

Body horror has roots in gothic literature, going as far back as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, HP Lovecraft, and Edgar Allen Poe. The idea of using the transmogrification of flesh in order to horrify people is probably even older than that. Human biology and genetics are incredibly complicated and one little change can make things go far into abnormal territory. I am thinking, of course, of birth defects. I myself was born with a physical defect. I was born with two aortas. My mutation (which is rare but not unknown) is invisible except to medical testing. Others have mutations that are much more visible which unfortunately made them outcasts in society. My mind here is mostly focused on freak shows. Freak shows in carnivals, circuses, and similar situations were ways to monetize the quirks of biology. Of course, those who were the “freaks of nature” were the ones who were exploited. Still, that sort of thing is as frightening as it is fascinating.

Doctors’ offices have always creeped me out. Too much happens there that causes pain or is just plain gross. At best, you get poked and prodded while being asked extremely personal questions. At worst, you get an incompetent or misguided doctor who causes bodily injury and/or psychological damage. Of course, my opinion is colored by my own experiences. Like I said, I was born with a physical defect and doctors were baffled by it for a long time. They misdiagnosed me so many times before the real cause was found. There are two different tests that were horrific to stand out in my mind. The first was a sweat test. The test is administered by attaching electrodes to a person and using them induce sweating at specific spots where the sweat is collected for testing. I remember it burning and being freaked out by it. The other one I have talked about before which was when I was made to take laps around a building and then have blood drawn. It was probably the most exhausted I have ever been.

The first thing I noticed was how gritty and dirty the film looks. The film looks a little grainy and it felt like it enhanced the heavily shadowed, poorly lit sets. This ended up all working well because the movie is largely set in the seedier parts of New York City back in the late seventies and early eighties. A time when New York was dirty and dangerous. I really loved the gritty production design. The monster design looked pretty crazy at first but it definitely grew on me. The practical effects look surprisingly good for an obviously basement low budget horror film. There are also some awesomely creepy stop motion sequences. I love stop motion used in horror as it never fails to be chilling. The movie is really gory and the practical effects and blood spray looked really excessive in the best way. To be clear, I watched the version restored by the Museum of Modern Art two years ago when they added it to their permanent collection.

Kevin Van Hentenryck plays the young protagonist/antagonist, a young naive man who is on a mission but also seems to want a normal life. He is the character we see the most and therefore the movie is arguably about him. He has a kind and innocent side but also a dark and troubled side. He is really good at playing both sides of that particular coin. Beverly Bonner plays a receptionist at a doctor’s office who is immediately sweet on our main character. She is really good at being a street smart but cute young woman. Everybody else is great too. The movie is full of actors acting in a delightfully exaggerated way. Quite a bit of the movie takes place in a fleabag hotel and a bar and the cast of characters inside of both are lovably insane stereotypes.

Overall, I really loved this movie. The movie is gory and weird and unnerving. It was a great way to officially end Halloween with an homage to my birth year of 1982. I already have copies of the two sequels and I am looking forward to watching them. My usual Halloween Hangover will hit in a week with some weird additional bits. I have so many movies still to watch but, at least for now, Halloween is over.

Q, The Winged Serpent (1982)

October 31, 2019

I have long been obsessed with the mythological. I grew up feeding on fairytales thanks to Disney and the Brothers Grimm (both apart and together). Except most of what I was exposed to was the usual European fare that most white people in America are exposed to. That all changed in high school when my mythology world was opened up by a surprising source. I was excited about the release of Final Fantasy VIII and so were a lot of other people. I started to watch videos online of spoilers for the game. I was specifically obsessed with the summons in the game. The ability to pull a mythological beast out of thin air was amazing but one of the first summons in the game fascinated me. It was Quetzacoatl, who I learned in my Spanish classes was a hybrid of a snake and a bird and a god to the Aztec people. Aztec drawings had always looked too messy to me but the design that Square-Enix had come up with was beautiful.

I have long loved the combination of mythology and an urban setting. While I am obviously a huge fan of high fantasy, urban fantasy is what I most like to read. Horror is actually really fond of putting this kind of fiction out there. I think the appeal to me is that places I walked or drove by could be secretly hiding a monster or a coven of witches. It also makes monsters and non-human creatures more relatable while still keeping them amazing. The thugs in the alley are secretly trolls, a dragon is hiding in the subway by constantly avoiding the trains, the banks are secretly run by high elves. This was kind of the appeal of the second Predator movie. Instead of taking place somewhere in the woods, it took place in an entirely different ecosystem. Cities team with life the same as the jungle but with more politics and clearer social systems. It is fun to watch monsters interact with those systems.

The first thing I noticed was how much this movie is a blend of genres. This one is a blend of a crime story, a detective story, and a monster horror movie. The movie is, of course, about the afore-mentioned movie which is treated Jaws-Like with only fleeting glimpses. The creature’s impact is seen more than the creature itself which, unless you have dynamite effects, is really the way to go. Of course, eventually the monster has to appear and I really liked the look of it. In the early eighties, you are not going to have anything that looks too beautiful so you have to make some allowances. The monster is mostly depicted Clash of the Titans style and that works for me, especially something with that scale. One thing that really hit me was that I loved the camera work in this movie. There are some really interesting moving shots and angles that really made a lot of the scenes come alive when they could have been more flat. This movie also really has some brilliant shots that triggered my fear of heights.

The movie follows a small-time crook played by Michael Moriarty. I absolutely love the way he is depicted as the absolute opposite of an action hero. He’s flighty, weird, and absolutely anxiety incarnate. He is instantly likable as an oddball outcast. He is giving it his all in a B-Movie and it shows. The movie also follows two detectives played by David Carradine and Richard Roundtree. Carradine is the main focus but both of them get to crack wise and present a lot of the exposition to the viewer. The cast does a really good job of mixing in comedy, focusing on the situation being a ridiculous situation until it is proven correct. Carradine does a good job of grounding the movie while everybody else gets more comedic performances.

Overall, I really loved this movie. It has a lot of charm and it was a nice break from the scarier movies I’ve watched this year. I do not watch a lot of creature features and I had heard good things about this one. It definitely has some strong acting, especially Moriarty who is just giving it everything he has. I like the mix of human crime with monsters that the movie has as well.

Dead Silence (2007)

October 30, 2019

I have a thing about puppets, toys, and dolls in horror. I am quickly drawn to anything with tiny animated children’s toys. I think that part of it is the juxtaposition between horror and innocence. The idea of being attacked by something people grew up being attached to is absolutely fascinating to me. Childhood is scary enough without being attacked by the toy around you. At least, it was for me. While I had a relatively good childhood, my imagination was almost always in overdrive. I dreamed up all sorts of demons and monsters in the shadows. I was not traumatized by it but I realize how many people could have been tortured by their own minds. Most of my imagination’s assault was during my dreams and not in my waking hours. It is easy to imagine sinister versions of everyday playthings. Hollywood and independents have been doing it long enough. My favorites are often connected to Charles Band such as Puppet Master, Dolls, Demonic Toys, and plenty more. Of course, it is also easy to realize how these little monsters can be so effective. Nobody could imagine that an innocent toy could harm somebody intentionally. They are literally designed to do the opposite, sentience or no.

I have watched a lot of puppet and toy horror movies, many of which I have reviewed here. They include (but are not limited to) Dolls, Demonic Toys, Goosebumps, Cult of Chucky, Curse of Chucky, and Child’s Play (2019). I will continue to review these kinds of movies, especially if they are notable cult movies and I have not seen them yet (this movie checks off both of those boxes). One culprit that I have not really explored (beyond Goosebumps and some Twilight Zone episodes) is the ventriloquist dummy. Which is weird because I have recently become infatuated with the visual look of ventriloquists. I am hesitant to reveal what that entails because I have dreamed up some horrors as part of one of my fantasy worlds. While I am no artist, I have definitely mocked up some pictures of humans with ventriloquist jaws. This is the creepiest part of the ventriloquist to me. The second place goes to their flat eyes. It goes hand in hand with my body horror fear that I have made manifest.

The first thing I noticed was an attention to detail in some great production design. The dolls in the movie are all exceptionally crafted and, while they are creepy, look like something somebody might own (unlike dolls like Annabelle). I also really like the concept of the supernatural threat which I was not exactly expecting and I will not spoil here. It is a really cool twist on the haunted doll trope and definitely fits so well here. The effects are delightfully gory and fairly horrific as one might expect from the mind of James Wan. However, unlike Saw, the movie felt more imaginative and less cruel even though it was still relentlessly cruel. On another note considering the production, this is when I found out that David Cronenberg has a sister named Denise who works as a costume designer. She definitely has some amazing contributions as well.

The acting is pretty good for a horror movie. The movie stars Ryan Kwanten as the likable everyman who is trying to solve the mystery of a personal tragedy. Donnie Wahlberg is the police detective investigating that same tragedy. He is the usual gruff, unlikeable character he always plays who somehow worms his way into your heart. Joan Heney plays a particular creepy mentally ill woman who acts as the movie’s harbinger. Amber Valletta plays the new stepmother of Kwanten’s character, adding to the whirlwind of mystery.  Bob Gunton plays the patriarch of Kwanten’s family, a kindly yet stern father figure. Michael Fairman plays the local undertaker and the source of much of the lore. Judith Roberts is a particularly nasty and delightful supernatural villain.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It had an innovative take on an old premise and went all-in on its theme and premise. The villain was really fun and made a lasting impression on me. The acting was pretty good and the story beats were worth waiting for.

Fire in the Sky (1993)

October 28, 2019

When I was ten years old, I somehow saw the trailer for this movie and after that, I was haunted by it. I watched other scary movies at the time but this one stuck with me. Every time I saw the poster, I froze up. Part of it was that it claimed to be based on a true story and I was a gullible kid. The idea of aliens being out there with the goal of floating around and targetting humans for the sole purpose of kidnapping us for mysterious and nefarious purposes. Alien abductions were supposed to happen without warning when people were out in the middle of nowhere and alone. At the time, I remember going on weekend camping trips with the Indian Guides. I was really scared that I was going to be abducted by aliens. Even though I was ten, I knew they would not hesitate to take me. I remember our group going out into the middle of the woods to experience what being in total darkness was like in order to tune in with nature and connect with a time when we did not have light bulbs or batteries. I looked up and the sky and saw a shooting star and I panicked but silently.

Another part of why the idea of alien abduction was scary to me is that the whole process was unknown. Alien abductions have been used to explain away so many seemingly weird happenings. When I became a skeptic, I confronted my fears and delved deep into all of the conspiracies. There is a rich tapestry of interesting theories and observances. The main thing that had scared me was that people lose time and then experience what we now know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A lot of fears of aliens combine fears that we have in the real world and apply a heavy layer of the supernatural. For example, probing combines most people’s fears of sexual assault and medical procedures with the added horror of it being done by weird creatures. I also really got into reading books written by John Keel who came up with the Mothman. He also crafted theories about the Men in Black and aliens being visitors from other dimensions or other time periods and not outer space. It is definitely all disturbing to think about.

The first thing I noticed was how well they were able to capture the feel of the 1970s (which is when the story was written). The movie even feels gritty like a lot of seventies movie looked and felt like. The story is apparently a bit simplified from the original book which I can definitely appreciate seeing as how the story was never proven to be true anyway. This is often done when adapting books to movies or television and it works well to cut the fat. The movie is partially told as a mystery and it was interesting to watch that unfold. The special effects, when they appear, are really good. A lot of it is understated and shown quickly so that it has more of a Jaws effect. They do a really good job of not explaining any of it, leaving it to the audience to try and figure out what is going on. If this sort of thing were to happen, we would probably have a difficult time figuring out what objects were what except from context. When it gets insane, it gets delightfully insane like something out of a Nine Inch Nails video mixed with Cronenberg weirdness.

Part of what makes this movie work is the performance of Robert Patrick, a bit of a legend in genre films. Patrick is really believable in his role as a backwoods lumberjack. He is so good at playing the stoic and serious man. Also turning in an excellent role is the legendary James Garner who is extremely likable as the big shot Police Lieutenant investigating the incident. However, the main character is played by DB Sweeney and he is instantly likable and interesting as a wide-eyed idealist. He is based on the man who wrote the book about what he believed happened. The story is told in flashbacks and post-event which means that everybody involved has to almost play two roles. Sweeney is especially good at it, acting as the brave man and the shattered man. The rest of the cast is mostly made up of the ragtag gang of friends who have rallied around their leader. They are all interesting guys.

Overall, I am really glad that I watched this movie to tie a bow on something from my childhood. Even with my hard-earned skepticism, I felt that same knot of fear before the movie started. I think it is a good enough movie but it dragged in some places and probably could have gotten to the point quicker. It definitely gets crazy and gross but you have to wait for it. Still, I think it is worth watching.

The Deaths of Ian Stone (2008)

October 25, 2019

When I was little, I had a recurring dream of being pursued, presumably by monsters. I never got a clear look at my pursuers but I was secure in the knowledge that if they caught me, they would destroy me utterly. The only time I might have seen my pursuers was when the dream started before I started fleeing. I was in a village of purple-skinned people who I thought were some sort of undead maybe. I knew they were eating humans. I forget how I pissed them off but before I long I knew I had to escape their village. I remember having to run through a fall landscape in the woods, the trail covered in slippery leaves. I remember knowing that I had to get to a barn where there was a zipline that would take me to safety or at least buy me some time. The dream ended with me on the zipline, something I would almost certainly not do in real life. I remember waking up with that anxiety clinging to me.

Of course, death itself is always in the top three list of fears globally. It is definitely a big fear for me, deep in the pit of my stomach. It has constantly vied with my other top fear of public speaking. A little cliche but those are the top two fears according to polls but I take comfort in being in a lot of good company. Death is always a mystery. We have no idea what instant it will come even in old age or heavily compromised by sickness. There is also no evidence on what happens after that final curtain. What if what happened was another death or more? That is a very real part of what makes death so scary, at least to me. We all try to fill our lives with light to drive the darkness of death away so that we can live comfortably.

The first thing I noticed was that the tone of the film and its imagery reminded me of Donnie Darko or Dark City. Everything is strange and off but not in an exaggerated way, at least not at first. I really liked the design of the creatures and how they teased their appearance slowly. Slowly revealing the monster is often my favorite part of horror movies. I love the lost feeling that I got while watching the movie. I had no clue what was going on but it made me want to know more. I would compare it to David Lynch but Lynch never provides any answers. This movie has more of a driving force, heading unstoppably toward a conclusion. It keeps you guessing but did not feel as frustrating as a Lynch movie. I really like a disorienting mystery sometimes.

Mike Vogel is in the lead and is instantly likable and relatable as the American expatriate just trying to make sense of his life. He constantly has really good scenes with just about everyone else in the movie. Christina Cole is a chipper, optimistic young woman who gets dragged along on the ride. I really liked the performance I got from Michael Feast as the wise man used for a lot of the slow exposition dumps. Jaime Murray is perfect as the beautiful, seductive and acidic opposition. She is so charismatic and fun to watch and fun to hate. The rest of the cast is mostly there to move things along as background but they do a good job. The acting felt like a mix of Lynch, Donnie Darko, Dark City, and even The Matrix. It felt like a refreshing take on science fiction/horror.

Overall, I loved this movie. It was a great combination of horror, mystery, and action which definitely scratched an itch I had no idea was there. The characters were all fun to watch and the movie was deeply satisfying. On a side note, I would like to thank my friend Tracy who recommended this movie. I would not have found it otherwise since it is off the beaten path.

Halloween (2018)

October 23, 2019

A lot of us have those family members that we are forced to cut ties from, the ones who haunt us sometimes with thoughts that we may see them again. The bonds of family are intense and almost impossible to erase. We do not choose these bonds and they can quickly become chains in bad situations, burdens we can only remove by limiting access. Of course, when those family members are mentally unbalanced, things become even harder. Dealing with unbalanced people like that is bad because they are extremely predictable until they become erratic. They lull you into a false sense of security and then they are suddenly in your face and potentially causing mental or physical harm. While none of my relatives have ever been potentially violent, I have known people who were. The scars of the past fade with time but they never truly go away. Any reminder can bring those scars back into focus and sometimes reopen the wounds we thought were closed.

I guess I should explain why I do not talk much about the Halloween franchise. The fact of the matter is that I held a grudge. I felt that the original Halloween was really good as you would expect from John Carpenter. After that movie is when they made a mistake. Originally, Halloween was intended to be an anthology series. Mike Myers was the villain for the first movie but any subsequent movies were to have different plots and different antagonists. Unfortunately, the studio got cold feet and pulled the trigger on Halloween 2 which featured the return of Michael Myers. Then they proceeded to their original plan and released Halloween 3 which featured a wildly different plot that mixed science fiction and magic. The movie was really good and felt more innovative than Halloween 2 and it showed promise for the original plan. However, the fans were confused and the studio panicked and they went back to Michael Myers and scrapped the original plan. I had sour grapes about that but now I’m willing to revisit the franchise.

The first thing I noticed was how the movie referred to the franchise history without really talking about it too much. Michael is set up to be almost a demigod of murder because his legend has been told for 40 years. I also really liked how they told a story rarely told in horror movies. They showed the survivors and the toll the event took on them and not just the survivors but the effect it has generationally. I love the slow burn of this movie and the deliberate pacing which causes tension long before anything actually happens. I love when horror villains are treated like forces of nature where everybody sits up and takes notice. The effects felt straight out of the seventies and eighties, all practical and all-natural. This is a straightforward slasher/action hybrid as if it was a sequel of the original movie, bypassing eight movies in the process. I really liked the cinematography and the set design which always provided for the perfect staging ground for the action.

Of course, if you have seen even a whiff of the promotion for this movie then you know that the star of the show is once again Jamie Lee Curtis. Except whereas she earned the same “scream queen” status of her mother in the first film, here she radiates different energy. She is a woman 40 years removed from the worst night of her life and she is not about to let it happen again. Michael does all of his acting through body language and that is done well by Nick Castle (the original) but mostly stuntman James Jude Courtney. Andi Matichak steps into the position that Curtis originally occupied and she is instantly likable. Haluk Bilginer takes the place of Donald Pleasance, a psychologist desperately trying to help. The rest of the cast is really good and provides plenty of depth to the movie.

Overall, I really liked the movie as it provided a good, straight-up horror movie and actually fought against some of the tropes and cliches of the genre while still honoring it. Obviously, the makers of this film loved the original franchise but wanted to reign it in by giving it a soft reboot. In that way, they simplify the lore and give a new starting point for horror fans like me. It makes me really want to see what the two planned sequels will be.

Suspiria (1977)

October 21, 2019

I remember the first time I went away to go to school. Well, technically it was to go to a summer camp that specialized in tutoring people with learning disabilities. I spent the summer doing the regular camp activities but also working on reading comprehension and skills to beat my ADD. When I traveled to Camp Glencoe, I was nervous as you would expect from a kid who was away from home for the first time. I was shy and not great at making friends so I did not know if I would fit in. That feeling never really got easier, I just got more comfortable with it. I traveled to Pittsburgh to attend pre-college and I was nervous about having a roommate for the first time. I traveled to New Jersey for college and I was nervous about the same things plus what my future might hold and how I would fair in an unfamiliar institution. Being taken out of your comfort zone can be very scary but it is often not so bad as we imagine. Positive thinking helps but it is impossible not to think of what might go wrong.

Traveling alone can also be scary. I remember the first time I traveled alone which was when I visited my grandmother by flying down south to be picked up at the airport by her. My father wrote a guide for me called “How to End Up in Columbia, South Carolina and not Colombia, South America”. It became the blueprint for every plane trip I have taken since. The importance of following directions and staying safe was hammered into me and it ended up not being as hard as I thought it would be. In fact, I was a little perturbed to have things done for me. However, looking back, I realize that any number of things could have happened to a little kid traveling alone. I also realize that as a male, I was statistically less likely to be harassed during my trip. I was not diverted from my destination as too many people have been.

The first thing I noticed is the really good use of color in the movie which is something I was prepared for. Immediately, the colors seemed vibrant and interesting. The use of light and shadow is especially spectacular, giving most frames the feel of arthouse photography. The music also struck me as particularly creepy, some of it similar to the stuff that John Carpenter was writing at the same time. The rest of it feels like experimental prog-rock stuff (performed by the Goblins) that is really discordant and creepy and adds so much. I was also really impressed by the special effects, simple practical effects and also simple but effective film effects. I was startled by how real they felt despite being uncomplicated and cheap. Also, apparently much of the dialogue and sound were recorded separately from film which is probably what gives the film such an otherworldly feel.

The cast is really interesting, especially considering that three different languages were spoken on set and the actors often had trouble communicating. The exaggerated movements of people’s mouths feels very much like theater and adds to the weirdness. The lead role is played by Jessica Harper and she is so good at being innocent and wide-eyed. Barbara Magnolfi plays the roommate, a snarky and sultry contrast to Harper. There is also Stefania Casini who plays a more forceful, tomboyish young woman. Alida Valli and Joan Bennett play two teachers and both are creepy in entirely different ways. One is too forceful and sadistic while the other is far too polite to be trusted. A lot of the acting reminds me of Rocky Horror Picture Show, everybody acts exaggerated and their movement is just a bit strange.

Overall, I really loved this movie because it really unnerved me at almost every turn. Every piece of it works together to form something not quite human, not quite right. It set me on edge throughout which perfectly set me up for the spooky stuff. Harper is especially likable and sympathetic and I really want to see her other movies.


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