October Horrorshow: Freddy vs. Jason

Is there anything that can save a movie with subpar acting and a weak story? Yes. Yes, there is. And that thing is outlandish and cartoonish gore. In 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason, the two principal antagonists of the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th horror franchises, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, come together in a crossover feat of mayhem and blood. The simple prospect of having such characters duke it out in a fanboy orgy surrounded by teenage cannon fodder is enough for any casual horror fan to take a look. Quite frankly, there is nothing surprising about the film, and nothing disappointing, either. The idea behind Freddy vs. Jason is the thing, the spectacular deaths of innocent bystanders is the charm, and everything else, acting and story, is just filler. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Freddy vs. Jason”

October Horrorshow: Land of the Dead

Cracked.com recently featured an article about surviving a zombie apocalypse. It concluded that all we know and all we’ve learned about surviving from zombie horror films is wrong. Tactics such as raiding the local gun store and fleeing from cities have become so imprinted on our psyches, Cracked argues, that everyone will have the same ideas, and those ideas will serve to create nothing but the world’s largest smorgasbord for the undead. They have a point. Well, they would, if the danger of a zombie apocalypse were real. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Land of the Dead”

October Horrorshow: John Carpenter’s Vampires

The year 2010 will be a treat. In this coming year, a new John Carpenter film, The Ward, will be released. It will be his first film since Ghosts of Mars, from way back in the far distant days of 2001. This has been a long layoff for the director — the longest in his career. One could easily have concluded that Carpenter had retired, maybe not completely with his own consent. The backend of Carpenter’s directorial career has been one box office bomb after another, none of the films able to capture or build upon the mastery of schlock, and horror, that he showed in his peak days three decades ago. His professional tale is one of the inevitable slide that all creative people who live long enough go through eventually. Depressing? It shouldn’t be, because even though his films have kept getting shittier and shittier, he still had the skill to crank out something like Vampires, a film that just reeks John Carpenter from start to finish. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: John Carpenter’s Vampires”

October Horrorshow: Maximum Overdrive

“Stephen King’s masterpiece of terror directed by the master himself.” That’s how Maximum Overdrive was billed, right at the top of the poster. There’s an image of a bearded King peaking through a jagged rip in the side of what looks like a horse trailer manipulating characters and events in the movie marionette-style. There they are at the end of his strings, right above the chrome and lightning bolt logo for the film, slave to his every command and victim to every twisted whimsy. The poster implies quite explicitly that every other King adaptation to make it to the big screen was shit. But never fear, the master of horror has blessed this film with his presence — total creative control — ensuring that Maximum Overdrive is the quintessential Stephen King film. Suck on that, Stanley Kubrick. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Maximum Overdrive”

October Horrorshow: Dawn of the Dead (2004)

The canon of the zombie genre is not set in stone, but it generally follows that George Romero’s films are the authority from which all subsequent variations derive. Not being based in fact, those variations are many. For instance, we all know that in order to kill a zombie, one must destroy the brain. That is, unless the film in question is Return of the Living Dead (a film that prides itself on being zombie apocrypha, as it were), where nothing short of total incineration can kill a zombie. Or 28 Days Later and it’s sequel, where the zombies (not zombies, according to the filmmakers) are not undead but still living, and can thus be killed by anything that’s lethal to a normal person. Or The Last Man on Earth, from before the genre had a rulebook, where a stake through the heart was used to dispatch the hordes. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Dawn of the Dead (2004)”

October Horrorshow: Event Horizon

Mix one part huge spaceship, one part small cast, and one part gore, blend on high, and what do you get? Alien. Or one of the many Alien clones that have dotted sci-fi cinema for the last thirty years. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Formulas in film that work well are often repeated ad nauseam, and while they never quite live up to the creative spirit at work in the original, they still serve to entertain, and that is the primary purpose of film. Even Alien itself is derivative of earlier films, most notably It! The Terror from Beyond Space, including many, many other sci-fi and horror films that portray a small group of people being mercilessly slaughtered one by one. But these days, where there’s outer space and buckets of blood, there is a debt of gratitude owed to Ridley Scott and his crew from 1979. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Event Horizon”

October Horrorshow: 28 Days Later & 28 Weeks Later

So much horror is garbage that every occasion that sees a thoughtful and intelligent entry to the genre is a welcome reminder that a film that tries to scare the viewer to death is not automatically bad, or packed to the gills with cliché. While slasher flicks and the endless variations of SCREWED scenarios (see the review of Quarantine for a definition) are good fodder for the bloodthirsty moviegoer, the need for true quality is still there. All the camp, all the gore, all the outlandishness that gives the horror genre its identity is, unfortunately, as full of as much grace and depth as a carnival funhouse. Enjoyable as that can be, and as much as it keeps bloody murder from being weighed down by too much realism, a well-handled production with a talented cast, a talented director at the helm, and a good story can always be applauded as something that is, my goodness, actually worth seeing. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: 28 Days Later & 28 Weeks Later”

October Horrorshow: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Tom Savini, as with Martin Becker before you, I salute you. In a film that otherwise struggled at times to hold my attention, the exquisite onscreen deaths perpetrated by Jason Voorhees and engineered by Savini saved the day. From the morgue attendant attacked with a hacksaw and a vicious neck twist, to the harpoon crotch lift, to the young lover whose skull is crushed against a shower wall, to the most brutal machete attack put to film since Apocalypse Now, there wasn’t much that was mailed in, and I have a suspicion a good deal hit the cutting room floor to bring the film down to an ‘R’ rating. All that sweet, sweet blood, and the occasional chest shot, is really the only draw to the film. Juvenile? No doubt, yet Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is still a sight better than most films in the Friday the 13th franchise. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter”

October Horrorshow: The Legend of Hell House

The fear that we create in our minds in anticipation of unpleasant events is more often than not more powerful than the event itself. Also, the actions of unseen forces are more unsettling than those by forces we can see, and can thus relate to and understand. Along these lines, in horror cinema, the most frightening ghosts are of the unseen variety. They make their presence felt by being menacing, by toying with those who trespass on their realm. They make noise. They bang, shuffle, and walk loudly across hardwood floors. They spark chills and cold winds. They speak, threaten and cajole. Eventually they move things around, simply and quickly, such as doors opening and closing by themselves, books falling off of shelves, etc. It’s usually around here that the separation is made between good ghost films and bad ghost films. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: The Legend of Hell House”