Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

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.

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.

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.

One, Please

April 17, 2018

Frank was sitting in his office going over the latest receipts. He was also idly paging through some of the solicitations for upcoming movies on offer. He could hear the printer at the box office and its steady, familiar rhythm. Business was pretty good and it eased his anxiety about running a private movie theater. He had offers from all of the chains to join up but he kind of liked being able to pick the best movies. It made it so he had to worry about his business each week but it was a small price to pay. Besides, it was Monday and the weekend receipts were the best they had been in a long time. It probably had to do with half of the current movies being Oscar nominees. He had slipped away from the office often to rewatch a few of them and they were really good. He often did not care for most so-called Oscar movies but things were looking up.

There was a knock at the door and Frank looked up. There was almost never a problem on Mondays, at least not any that required Frank’s attention. The semi-retired woman who ran box office on Mondays, Sue, was firm and usually could disarm potential problems with a hard look. So, it was a surprise that there was a knock on the door of his private office.

“Come in?” Frank said, a little unsure.

The door opened and Sue poked her head inside. “Hey, Frank. There’s a guy out here complaining.”

“Complaining?” Frank asked. “You can usually deal with a little complaining, Susan.”

Sue grunted. “You know I hate when people use my full name. Something about him is just so… insistent. I think you should talk to him so I can get back to cleaning theater 3.”

“That’s Jimmy’s job,” Frank said. “Wake him up and tell him to get back to work. And you know what? Send the guy in here.”

“Mmhmm,” Sue said and closed the door. A few moments later, the door opened and an unassuming man walked in. He looked a little annoyed but grateful to get to talk to somebody about it.

Frank stood up and motioned to the chair on the other side of the desk. “Please, come in and sit down. My name is Frank Eastman and I own this theater.”

“Eastman,” the man said. “Like the man who invented the film camera. Fitting that you would own a movie theater.”

“I guess so,” Frank said. “I’m not sure if there’s any relation. What brings you to my office, Mister…” It was a blatant attempt at fishing for the man’s name.

“Mister is fine,” the man said. “I have a list of complaints, though. I guess I should get started?”

“Please,” Frank said. “If there’s a problem with my movie theater, I’m interested in fixing it.”

Mister smiled and shrugged. “These are not just problems with your theater, they are problems with all movie theaters.”

“Now you’ve really got my attention,” Frank said. The man seemed incredibly intelligent and warm so why had his complaints unnerved Sue so much? It seemed weird.

The man flipped open a small notepad. “Well, for starters. I had to move my seat because a woman sat down in front of me. She was wearing really strong perfume and it burned my eyes.”

“Alright,” Frank said. “That’s rude. I’m not a fan of people wearing perfume or cologne in public myself but what do you want me to do? It’s not like we can sniff people as they walk in and toss out the smelly ones.”

“Noted,” Mister said. “The couple behind me was talking during the whole movie. Every time I looked back at them, they lowered their voices and whispered but they would only get loud again over time. I had already moved, so I did not want to move again.”

“Well, again, that’s pretty rude but I can’t really stand over everybody’s shoulder and shush them whenever they talk. Movies can inspire people to talk sometimes and I can’t really stop it even if I sometimes want to.”

Mister only grunted at that. “Should I even get into the whole trouble with smartphones? Set aside talking and texting, just checking your phone during the movie can be distracting as the light from the screen suddenly acts as a beacon.”

Frank laughed a little at that. “I hate that too. I really do. I wish I could make the experience great for everyone. I specifically pump the volume to cover up when people talk. I sacrifice more theaters to make them bigger so everyone can find their seat. I do what I can. What do you want me to do? Nail your list to the door like Martin Luther?”

Mister shrugged. For some reason, as he got a little more worked up, he seemed to have more presence. “And why not? Is this not a temple?”

“A temple?” Frank asked. “Wow, I guess I feel the way that I used to feel in church in here sometimes. I’ve never heard anyone talk about it like that.”

“Because this is your temple where you honor me,” Mister said.

“You?” Frank asked. “Who are you?”

Mister sat up in his chair and smiled. “I am the God of Film.”

“What?” Frank asked. “Man, I don’t need crazy today. Monday’s supposed to be my slow day.”

“I can prove it,” Mister said. “There are cameras in each theater, right?”

“Yeah,” Frank said. “I use it to scan for camcorders but I also save a snapshot of each crowd just in case.”

“Bring up yesterday’s snapshots,” Mister said.

Frank shrugged and grabbed his laptop and brought up the folder. “Which showing am I looking at?”

“All of them,” Mister said. “You’ll find me dead center.”

Frank frowned and started looking through the pictures. The first matinee’s picture showed Mister right where he said he was. The next picture, there was Mister again. The third picture was the same. Again and again and again there was Mister dead center, best seat in the house. Then Frank realized the implications of that. Several of those pictures were taken simultaneously. That was impossible.

“What are you?” Frank asked.

“I told you,” Mister said. “The God of Film. Did you expect me to look more like this?” He snapped his fingers and he suddenly changed into an extremely handsome young man with shiny black sunglasses and a big toothy grin. “Or this?” He snapped his fingers and he was suddenly a tall, platinum blonde wearing a fur coat. “This is my temple and you are my priest.”

“I never did any of this for you,” Frank said. “I bought this building to set up a movie theater because I love movies. If I worship anything, it is stories. If I want to watch a movie in peace, I can watch it in my living room or I can screen it here alone. I’m lucky that way. People come to the theater for the experience. Part of that experience is pushing past the petty annoyances and just getting lost in whatever story is playing out in front of you. And you know what? If you can’t get past that, then that’s on you. I’m not sure I even want you around anymore. I have the right to refuse service to anyone.”

“Not to me,” Film said. “You cannot deny me.”

“Well, to quote a really good movie: ‘I cast you out!'” Frank yelled out. Film looked pained and then he faded away, crossfading to somewhere else. It left Frank alone in his temple to do his receipts.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

April 7, 2017

I have always loved a good story. When I was little, there are two sets of stories that I remember best. The first was reading from a Disney storybook with my mom and once I knew how to read, I read for my brothers with my mom’s supervision. Undoubtedly, that is when and where I became a Disney nerd. The other stories were the ones my uncle made up when I was staying with him and my cousin. That was probably one of the many events that incited my passion for writing. When I was a little older, I discovered Roald Dahl. By the end of third grade, I had read every single Roald Dahl book. This had a bit of a different effect on me.

Roald Dahl sold books on the Brothers Grimm model of storytelling. He was not afraid to go dark because his childhood was dark. Just go and read his autobiographies and that is clear. He lived through World War I era England but that is not all. He also pretty much encountered all of the nasty characters from his books and short stories suffering through the British school system. His childhood was brutish and a struggle but he made it through to write about it happening to other people. The mix of that darkness and adventure made me less afraid of the lesser obstacles in my childhood. It also allowed me to embrace that darkness and contributed to me loving Halloween as much as I do.

I have said it before and I am sure many people would agree that Wes Anderson movies are strange. I think Wes Anderson delights in being weird and that is kind of one of the points of this movie. The animation is kind of difficult to adjust to. Anderson purposely had it filmed at a lower frame rate in order to clearly point out that it is stop-motion animation. It makes some of the movements a little jerky. He also used real fur for the animal puppets which makes the fur sort of squirms around especially on the faces. But, much like Team America: World Police, the characters inhabit those awkward puppets through the magic of both puppetry and animation. It helps that Anderson has always known how to frame his storytelling. Every shot is beautiful.

The story is kind of in two parts that are blended together really well. The original story was about a fox trying to feed his family but the farmers he steals from try to hunt him down. They go to outrageous lengths to try to kill the fox and his family and the community suffers. The foxes eventually outsmart the farmers and learn to survive. It was a tale about a father (who Dahl identified with) trying to protect his family and getting through the hard times as a result. That story is still there in this movie. In addition, there is another half of the story which is very Wes Anderson. It is about a dysfunctional family and community and learning to live not only with other people but yourself too. It is delightfully weird and quirky. It is helped along by brilliant voice acting from a lot of great people but especially George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman and Eric Anderson.

Overall, this was a really great movie. I was not sure how it would be considering some Roald Dahl adaptations are not very good. This one ended up more like Matilda and Willy Wonka than James and the Giant Peach or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I really should not have doubted it as Wes Anderson is a great artist and he had a good backbone of a story to work with in the first place. Also, the animation was done by Henry Selick who directed Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas which are two of my favorite animated films of all time. I definitely recommend this. It takes a bit of effort to get past the weirdness but what lies beyond is both touching and funny.

Top 11 Favorite Horror Villains

October 22, 2016

The following villains are my favorite horror villains mostly from film franchises. There are three that were also in books and one that was also in a play. These guys are my favorite villains and, on a sidenote, I wish there was more than one woman on the list. However, instead of talking about them generally, I wanted to talk about their motivations and how I identify with them somewhat. No matter what I say, I cannot condone or excuse anything these characters did. You should not respond to personal tragedy with violence or supernatural terror.


11 Jack Torrance

Jack is a great example of how the human mind can break if you apply enough of the right kind of pressure. He is arguably one of the most sympathetic characters on this list while still being incredibly sadistic and violent. He is a writer who just wanted to get some work done before his inner demons came out to play. It is hard to fight against that anger and resentment inside even if it is for the sake of people you love. When you lose yourself, anything can happen in the midst of that rage. Added to that, he was being egged on by a vortex of murderous ghosts. I definitely understand how powerful that anger is.


10 Hannibal Lecter

Lecter was a cannibal and a serial killer and you really can’t get past that. However, Dr. Lecter was also incredibly intelligent and had a personal code of honor he adhered to. More often than not, the people he killed or maimed were rude or jerks. They were assholes. Dr. Lecter had a clear picture in his head of what a good, useful person is. Personally, I can’t stand a bully. I would never kill or even physically harm anyone, though. I definitely have a lot of things that people can do that cause me to instantly lose respect for them. I wish a lot of the people who commit these things could disappear from my world but I would never actually act on that.


9 The Woman in Black

Regrettably, she is the only woman on this list and she might just have the saddest story of anybody here. She was not always a homicidal ghost. She was once a trying to get back to her baby when she drowned in the swampy land within a stone’s throw of her child. Now, anyone who sees her loses their child to the Grim Reaper’s bony hands usually by some impossible accident. It is horrible to feel cheated. That feeling gets even worse if being cheated hurts both you and your loved ones. You just want to burn the world down for daring to be so unfair. It is hard to accept the bad places we are put in.


8 Jason

When you take away all of the dead teenagers, Jason is hard not to feel sympathy for. He feels slighted for dying while those who were responsible for his safety neglected him. He wants revenge for this slight but cannot really go to a lawyer and file a wrongful death suit. Eventually, he just doesn’t want people in his territory and yet they keep invading his space over and over despite the danger. On top of all of that, they killed his mother. Sure she was murdering teenagers but you just don’t kill a guy’s mother. Really, he combines the motivations of Dr. Phibes and Jerry Dandridge strangely enough.


7 Pennywise

While Pennywise is probably the least scary clown in the history of horror clowns, I still like him. Pennywise is a great example of turning symbols of childhood into symbols of hate and fear. Pennywise just does not like kids. I often feel uncomfortable around children and sometimes I joke that I ‘hate’ children but they’re alright in small doses. Still, as uncomfortable as I can be around them, I really like some of the stuff that kids like. It is kind of a weird feeling sometimes to like all ages material but not really get along with all ages. Of course, Pennywise hates adults too so maybe we are pretty much alike.


6 The Leprechaun

The Leprechaun is a happy little fellow who lived with anger issues in Ireland. The trouble starts and the whole franchise is pretty much put into motion by people taking his gold. Unfortunately, he does not call the authorities to track down his stolen property and instead decides to kill for it. Unfortunately, I understand that impulse. I am fiercely territorial when it comes to my property. I get really upset when people enter my bedroom without asking. I get antsy when people handle my phone or go near my car. So I understand that impulse to get people away from my stuff. I do not believe that violence is the answer, though.


5 Dr. Anton Phibes

Phibes was undoubtedly a very smart person who suffered a horrible tragedy. He loved his wife and only wanted to hurt the people who had hurt her. I can understand that instinct. I don’t like it when people hurt me but I really don’t like when people hurt the ones I love. It can be too easy to lash out to protect or avenge the people you love even if it won’t actually help you. I don’t actually take action against those perpetrators but I find it nearly impossible to forgive. It is really hard to let go of that anger because letting it go feels like somebody is getting away with something.


4 Jerry Dandridge

He is possibly the most Eighties-tastic horror villain in film history. Jerry Dandridge moves into a peaceful Iowan suburb. He’s got a great big house, great furnishings and his buddy Billy Cole who lives with him. The only problem is that Jerry is a vampire and Billy is a… something else. They are killing people but they are really discreet about it. As far as we knew, he did not want to rule the world or anything. They just wanted to be left alone to do their own thing. While Jerry was indeed evil, I can definitely identify with that hunger for privacy. Thankfully, I do not also share his hunger for blood. I think a lot of us just want to be left alone.  I also wish I was as smooth and confident as Jerry Dandridge and of course I am talking about Chris Sarandon.


3 Evil Ash

In the entirety of the Evil Dead franchise, it is hard to pinpoint many actual villains with names and faces but the biggest one is Evil Ash. Evil Ash, for lack of a better name, is born two different times during the franchise when Deadite magic gets into Ash’s body. He literally splits from Ash’s body like an amoeba and looks and sounds just like him. He is a fairly intelligent deadite (undead) creature. Really, when he is born, he is stuck on the side of the Evil Dead. As with all deadites (except Sam), Evil Ash is immediately drafted into the dark side and is tasked with fighting for the Deadite army. Throughout his appearances, he is only playing the cards he is dealt. To a certain extent, it is hard to blame him for being evil since that is the way he was made. He has all of Ash’s positive and negative qualities, he just ends up on the wrong side of the fight.


2 Chucky aka Charles Lee Ray

Sometimes, I think that Charles Lee Ray is my spirit animal. By that, I don’t mean that I am confessing to being a killer doll who dabbles in voodoo and wisecracks. Well, I do like a good wisecrack. What I mean is that I think Chucky and I might share a similar trait in our brain chemistry. I was born with Attention Deficit Disorder and I think Chucky has it too. He has a lot of the symptoms, at least. During the Child’s Play films Chucky usually has one goal and that is to transfer his soul into a human body. Sure, he makes a lot of assumptions about how or why he can do that but it is still his stated goal. However, he is constantly diverting from his task to kill somebody else. Hell, in Child’s Play 2 he takes the time to murder a non-sentient doll and then buries it. He has a deadline but he just loves killing too much to get it done.


1 Freddy Krueger

Imagination is why I love and identify with Freddy Krueger. He puts so much thought and work into each and everything he does. It is not just the killing either. His taunting is so well laid out that it’s a good thing the dead don’t sleep or else he would never get it all done. He tailors each death individually like some weird boutique/concierge murderer. Usually, his only audience for these morbid art projects are the victims themselves who are going to be dead in a minute anyway. That shows dedication. He must have files on everyone in Springwood because he almost automatically knows how to kill just about anybody he meets in the most poetic way.

Baltimore on Film

April 2, 2016

I love when my hometown of Baltimore is in anything. I especially love when film trucks come to town and they shoot a movie or television show here. It feels like Baltimore often gets the short end of the stick because we’re often overlooked. Maybe it’s because we’re too close to Washington DC or maybe it’s because they see us as boring. Baltimore is anything but boring and the architecture and culture are near and dear to my heart. Now, everybody knows The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets and, although I love them, I don’t need to discuss them. I picked a couple that may surprise you. All of them are shows and movies that I really like.


Live Free or Die Hard

I love the Die Hard franchise. My whole family loves the Die Hard franchise. People are down on Live Free or Die Hard but I feel it’s a good Die Hard movie but understandably not the best. However, it’s still a lot of fun to watch. The movie is set mostly in Washington DC but has a fairly lengthy segment in Baltimore. They travel to a Baltimore neighborhood to visit with Kevin Smith’s character which is the greatest collision of Jersey and Baltimore since me. Aside from that establishing shot, numerous locations in Baltimore stood in for DC streets. It’s pretty hilarious for a Baltimore boy who grew up disliking DC.


Hairspray

I could have put all of John Waters’ films in here as my old neighbor’s movies are pretty much all set and largely filmed in the Baltimore area. Hairspray is a great example of this as we see all sorts of areas downtown and areas out in Baltimore County. The movie is set in Baltimore at a boiling point in the civil rights movies. Baltimore is a great city for that because we have historically been caught between the north and the south. Baltimore really comes alive in the movie and it looks like a place you want to live. When the movie originally came out I was six and I frequently was near locations in the movie even if I wasn’t aware. Also, forget about the new version as only one establishing shot was filmed in Baltimore. Most of it was filmed in Toronto of all places.


X-Files – The Unusual Suspects

I watched the X-Files almost every Sunday for the first few seasons. It was a great show that mixed mystery, science and the supernatural together. I loved the characters, especially Mulder and Scully because both actors made it work so well. An early indicator of my love of conspiracy theories was probably how much I loved The Lone Gunmen, a ragtag group of informants for Mulder. In season five I was overjoyed to learn that the characters would be given their origin story. Not only do they get a well-written backstory but it’s also set in Baltimore. In fact, much of it is filmed in the Baltimore Convention Center. We also get an appearance from Detective Munch of Homicide and Law and Order: SVU fame.


Twelve Monkeys

Twelve Monkeys is a great movie but admittedly it’s a very strange movie. The science fiction elements end up being a little confusing but you tend to expect such things from a movie with time travel in it. There are great performances in the movie that cover a lot of the weak points and the movie ends up being a great Terry Gilliam movie. In particular, we get a great performance from Bruce Willis and a show stealing performance from Brad Pitt. In the movie, a man is sent back in time to Baltimore to prevent a catastrophe. Unfortunately, a lot of iconic scenes take place in Pennsylvania but there are plenty of shots in Baltimore. Specifically, there were scenes shot on Gay Street and in Mount Vernon. I have been in these neighborhoods more times than I can count.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

April 1, 2016

My family has a personal connection to Abraham Lincoln. My brother owes his middle name to the sixteenth President of the United States. It makes a lot of sense. He was a very presidential president and accomplished a lot before he was laid low by an assassin’s bullet. Also, he was a lawyer and both of my parents are lawyers. Most of Abraham Lincoln’s life is hardly a secret. He grew up very poor but he was self-educated and frontier life made him pretty hardy. He became a lawyer and then joined the Illinois legislature before finally becoming President of the United States. He commanded the US during the Civil War, saw its conclusion and abolished slavery near the end. Finally, his life was taken by John Wilkes Boothe in Ford’s Theater in DC.

All of this forms the framework for the book that Seth Grahame-Smith wrote called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. He took the real history and added in a secret vampire hunting quest that Honest Abe was engaged in. While he was making history in his day job, he was also declaring a private war against the vampires of our great nation. I expected the book to be silly and kind of lame but it wasn’t. The characters were well written and the author takes great pains to match actual events to fictional events. The plot was compelling and it was a hard book to put down. I rarely watch a movie after reading a book and vice versa but I thought I’d make an exception.

While I said that the book wasn’t silly, it was pretty hammy and heavy-handed. Vampire movies and books are often light and dark, good and evil as it makes things way easier. The movie skips a bit of the book and Lincoln’s history and zooms through his childhood. That’s fine, I didn’t come to see the story of a frontier child. I came to see one of the father’s of our country whoop some ass. We are given a fair background of the general time period and it already feels like we’re not getting the detail from the book. This movie feels like it’s going to be more about Abe’s story and not about matching fictional dates with historical dates. This is immensely acceptable because I’ve studied history. I want a good story.

We dive right into the supernatural and it’s not only the vampires who are magical, it’s the honest one himself as well. Also, the movie is built like a lot of epic/vaguely artsy blockbusters that came before it. While I could make a few 300 and Gangs of New York comparisons, the film felt more like a revenge movie (Kill Bill) mixed with a war film (Gettysburg). The movie knows that it is silly and also knows not to take itself seriously while appearing to take itself deadly seriously. The vampire effect is actually really fun, like Buffy and Angel, it instantly turns human-looking creatures into absolute scary monsters. Vampires are feral beasts when cornered but gentlemanly when going about their normal business.

The movie is full of some great performances although obviously not a single one of them is Oscar quality. I really like a good weaselly performance from Jimmi Simpson, a television actor who does not often get his due. I was surprised to see Alan Tudyk who is one of my all-time favorite television actors and he plays Stephen Douglas, Abe’s historic political rival. Also, there’s a solid pre-Falcon Anthony Mackie which is awesome. Abraham Lincoln himself is played really well by Benjamin Walker even if he looks more like a young Liam Neeson than I imagine Lincoln looked. There are two main villains and both of them are pretty charismatic and sufficiently evil. In the end, the movie was a really fun sit that didn’t take too long and was interesting enough to keep my attention.


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