Halloween III was a big bust. A successful horror franchise ditched its most marketable characters because series creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill were tired of the idea. I suppose it was a laudable decision from a creative standpoint, but if you’re going to ditch Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, perhaps the greatest on screen villain/scream queen pairing in Hollywood history, it’s probably a bad idea to name your new film like it’s a sequel. Carpenter and Hill learned the hard way that the Halloween brand was in its characters, not its name. Halloween III is not a bad movie. It’s just not a Halloween film. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers”
Oren Peli, he of the found footage Paranormal Activity horror franchise, wisely decided to expand his horizons...somewhat. With shared producer and screenwriting credits, Chernobyl Diaries, from earlier this year, can be considered part of Peli’s oeuvre. Co-producer Bradley Parker served as the film’s director, in his first effort helming a film after a career in visual effects and some second unit work. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Chernobyl Diaries”
Zombie flicks are my favorite horror film. Not only are they a subgenre of horror, they are a subgenre of post-apocalyptic fiction, which is a subgenre of sci-fi. That’s a lot of genre-ing going on. I like the post-apocalyptic stuff. Civilization on the brink or going down in a ring of fire. It’s fascinating. It gets the gears turning, but it’s not all that scary. That is, seeing society break down and enter a new dark age, no matter the cause (zombie horde, plague, nuclear war, etc.), is unsettling, but when I think of something being frightening in film, I’m not just talking existentially. I’m thinking of actually being scared of looking at the screen. For that, there’s nothing better than the first half of a ghost film. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Grave Encounters”
The House of the Devil is a neat little lo-fi film from writer/director Ti West. An homage to low-budget horror from the 1970s and 80s, The House of the Devil is a faithful recreation of styles and techniques from that era. The film takes place in the early 80s, and West does a great job taking the viewer back. But the film is not about the 80s. That’s a distinction worth pointing out. It means the film doesn’t crash the viewer with reminders of the time around every corner, nor does it rely on nostalgia. It just is. The very low budget meant that West didn’t have absolute control over the dressing of locations, inadvertently creating a fun game of spot the anachronism. It doesn’t necessarily distract from the film, but I did find myself hunting for objects that had no business being in the 1980s.
The film follows college sophomore Samantha (Jocelin Donahue). She lives in a dorm, but can’t stand her roommate. In order to get some money to rent an apartment, she answers a flier for a babysitter posted on campus. Her friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) gives her a ride out to the place, down a lonely country road, and we finally make it to the house of the title. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: The House of the Devil”
...And then there was Psycho III. Part of the appeal of the first two films in the franchise was that there was a fair amount of ambiguity to events. There were murders, but it wasn’t at all clear until the end who had been committing them (of course, a person would have to be living under a rock to not have picked up on Psycho’s twist at some point in their lives). Not so in Psycho III. Norman Bates is doubtlessly the bad guy in this one, so it just remains to be seen how he will get his comeuppance. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Psycho III”
I like Psycho II better than Psycho.
— Quentin Tarantino
Slow your roll, Quentin.
I’m taking that quote out of context. It is possible to like one film more versus another, while recognizing that film A is not as good as film B. For example, I have a short list in my head of my favorite movies. Star Trek II is on that list. I can watch that film at anytime. I love it because it’s a wonderful sci-fi flick, with lots of action and a comprehensible story. I also love it because if there had never been any other Star Trek film made, if there had never been any of the television series, it could stand on its own with none of the decades-long backstory. But I will never, ever, say that it is a better film than, say, A Prophet, or Jiro Dreams of Sushi, to name two better films I saw this year. Those two films are better, but they will never come close to attaining the same level of appreciation I have for Star Trek II. It just cannot happen. So I understand how Quentin Tarantino, who has a much more thorough understanding of cinematic history than I, could like Psycho II more than Alfred Hitchcock’s original classic. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Psycho II”
Man vs. beast, a perennial narrative for as long as there have been narratives. Rich, fertile ground for storytellers. Combine that with the creepy-crawly subgenre of horror, and you get Of Unknown Origin. Directed by George P. Cosmatos way back in 1983, Of Unknown Origin tells the tale of Bart Hughes (Peter Weller), an investment banker of some sort, and the confrontation he has with a rat. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Of Unknown Origin”
(Note: I wrote this way back in May, then decided that, rather than post this immediately, it would fit in better with the October Horrorshow. Hence the slightly dated references in the opening paragraph.)
From 1989, Leviathan is George P. Cosmatos’s follow-up to the classic Sylvester Stallone shitfest that was Cobra. And Leviathan isn’t any better. Little more than a mashup of Alien and John Carpenter’s Thing, Leviathan is a stroll down recognizable and well-worn plot paths, comfortable in its familiarity, like an old pair of shoes or the quilt that your grandmother made when you were a child. A more crass reviewer could say Leviathan is a blatant rip-off of much better films, and they would be correct. But I choose to view Leviathan in a more forgiving light, especially since, these days, Hollywood is determined to cram sequels, adaptations, reboots, and remakes down the throats of the all-too-willing public. This week, I could have chosen to see The Avengers or even Battleship at the theaters. Instead, I decided to stay local with my garbage, and rent a fine example of shitty monster movie cinema to view in my own home. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Leviathan”
A slasher flick starring Jack Palance and Martin Landau as murderous psychopaths? It would have been impossible for me not to seek this mother out, especially for an October Horrowshow viewing. Expectations were low. After all, despite the star power, this is an obscure movie, never a good sign. It’s a pretty simple formula. If a movie has stars, and you’ve never heard of it, there’s a chance it stinks. A great example of this idea is Robert Altman’s Quintet. That one had Paul Newman and Fernando Rey, two actors with gigantic reputations in a film helmed by one of Hollywood’s great directorial talents, and it was dreadful. Palance and Landau are no slouches, each having won Oscars for films after their roles in Alone in the Dark, but this film, like Quintet, was tough to watch. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Alone in the Dark (1982)”
Teleportation is a fascinating subject. Most sci-fi fans have watched the transporters in Star Trek or elsewhere and thought how cool it would be to travel instantly from one place to another. But then science rears its ugly head. Sure, it’s a novel idea, and would change the way we live in ways that are hard to comprehend. For instance, if distance becomes meaningless, so does security and privacy. There’s no point in having locked doors if anyone at anytime can just teleport into your apartment and steal your stuff. There’s no point in living in cities if you can have cheap housing in the boonies and just teleport into midtown for work. Hungry for some Italian food? Forget the quaint little place that just opened in the old downtown, in the spot the shoe store used to be. Go to fucking Italy! Teleportation would be such a revolution in the way we think about distance that it would remake society in ways we can scarcely imagine. But there’s a dark side. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: The Fly (1986)”