September 29, 2009

Das Experiment

Do you like Germans? Do you like the boyfriend from Run, Lola, Run? What about unethical psychological experiments from the 1970's? Well then this film is for you.

Das Experiment (The Experiment, if you are unfamiliar with life), chronicles the story of a bunch of 30 year old German guys who volunteer for a scientific study on prison behaviors. Stanford already did it, but the study was cut short because things went batshit insane (true story). So this is supposed to be a what-if situation, as in: what if the experiment reached it's conclusion? What if Zimbardo hadn't pussed out, and continued the thing? Well, mostly people would speak a lot of German, pee on each other, walk around naked, and attempt rape. Also, Nazis are only mentioned like twice, which is negative bones.

The tension of the movie comes from the one Nazi-esque guy, whose name escapes me at this time. He's blond though, and you can tell he's crazy because he is an airplane steward and has very gelled hair. Hitlerian, in general. So Nazi Guy takes over among the designated guards and decides to fuck around with everyone. Eventually, things get (mostly) out of hand and the guards kidnap the researchers. I work in a research lab, and let me say, that would suck. But not likely to happen, as my project only involves filling out a 15 minute survey on a computer.

I think the whole psychological effect of the study was the most interesting part of the film. When the main character gets thrown into a sensory deprivation box, you can just feel the fear and claustrophobia of the character. The way the characters just started falling into the roles and following what they thought was expected of them was very accurate as well. In the real study, they had to stop because the guards were emotionally abusing and humiliating the prisoners. In the film, the Nazi guy takes over and everyone starts to follow him, even when he started to Hitler it up.

The one problem I had was that somehow, these German researchers were able to get this study approved. It's so unethical; you can't do this kind of thing anymore. Yes, yes, I know, it's a movie. But still! It makes me slightly nervous that the Germans apparently have no review board to approve or throw out research proposals. There is just no way you would get away with that. The psychological world would be pretty pissed when the results came out. Although the paper would be pretty interesting: "Yeah, the patients kidnapped us. There was piss everywhere and I got shot in the eye. See, psychology can be fun! It's not just Freud and sexuality. There's murder and urination, too!"

Anyway, watch it on Netflix instant. This is my main source for foreign horror right now, so I'm sure I'll have to wade through a lot of crap to get to the gold. But this I do for you, my audience.

September 21, 2009


I know I haven't written/reviewed anything in awhile, but I was inspired by a friend to start writing again. I feel like I haven't watched any good horror movies lately anyway, so I don't think you're missing anything on that part. But I did watch this French movie on Netflix instant, which has become my greatest connection to foreign and forgotten horror films.

The movie starts out as a sort of boring, out of place crime drama type thing, with the main characters driving away from the cops, someone gets shot and dies, and they all have to leave Paris and go on the lam. Or I think that's what happened, I was making coffee at this point and was just waiting for some blood or gore or something to get my mind off of things.

Luckily, I didn't have to wait too long for two characters, Farid and Tom, to end up in a hostel full of attractive employees who are apparently part-time prostitutes. Two women, who happen to be sisters, seem particularly interested in Tom. Farid doesn't want to engage in any activities with the women, because he has a girlfriend. Tom couldn't care less, and I wasn't sad when the women's brother showed up to kick Tom's ass. It was a good start. But at this point, I thought to myself, you know what would make this movie worthwhile? Nazis. God heard my prayer and obliged. Now we had a real movie.

Jacob (a friend who would like to be taught the basics of horror filmography) and I cheered and screamed at the plight of poor Farid, who was being chased by hillbillies, Nazis, mutant babies, and an obese butcher. My only regret about this movie was that Farid had to die. I don't care if I just ruined it for you, it's a horror movie; there can only be one survivor. After Tom and Farid are gone, the two main-main characters show up. Yasmine and the other guy. I think his name is Alex, but I'm not 100% sure. Yasmine is the true star though, because she is the Final Girl. The whole point of the movie is to be a French Texas Chainsaw Massacre with Nazis. In fact, I think that was the working title. The Nazi family is all about pure blood and the core family values of Hitler's reign. They want to add to their family, so what better way than to kidnap Yasmine and force her to have more children for them. This is where things get interesting. Yasmine meets the mutant incest babies of two family members, the insane leftover Nazi who is older than hell and mostly an asshole, and the big fat butcher guy who cuts up her friends and feeds them to the family. How wholesome.

After Yasmine sort of causes a coup, the whole movie is about revenge and murder. It's a great cathartic experiences to watch Yas kill all those Nazis with a great variety of weapons and a ton of blood. At the end, her white wedding dress is coated in blood and she finally reaches the police. It was such an echo of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre that there was nothing left to do but really appreciate the entire endeavor. Was it a masterpiece? No. But I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn to scream in French or how to appropriately kill Nazis.

June 23, 2009


I started watching this film with little to no expectations, thinking it was going to be another throw-away ridiculous horror premise. I was pleasantly surprised by my enjoyment of it. Maybe something is wrong with me, but I found the subject matter to be hilarious. That being said, I do not recommend this film for men who dislike the idea of losing their junk.

The film is about a young girl who discovers she is able to exact the revenge of women on all mankind with her power to destroy the outer essence of a man. She fights for the rights of women, showing men that they deserve equal pay and respect, and want to be taken seriously. Through her journey of discovery, she stays true to herself, while asserting her rights to the opposite sex and discovering the beauty inside all women. I'm just kidding, she has vagina teeth that bite off penises and it is gross.

Basically, the main girl is all about abstinence, which was terribly done in the film. They treated it like she was a freak for wanting to wait. Also, she went from not even wanting to kiss anyone to full-on having several sex partners. Maybe this is just a personal gripe with the movie, but I thought that wasn't very consistent for the character. But I guess she has to have sex to bite off wieners anyway. And that is where the true hilariousness of the film begins.

She has a crush on this other guy, who "hasn't jacked it since Easter." (A friend wondered why he would have masturbated on the most important Christian holiday, but whatever). They begin to hang out and he ends up attempting to rape her. This is where I started yelling, "DO IT, HE IS A RAPIST, HE DESERVES IT." And I won't ruin anything here, but the kid walks away missing a few inches. Also, if you are squeamish about genital-related gore, they show everything, included the severed members. But that shit is funny to me, so I enjoyed the movie.

The reason she has a toothy vagina is never fully explained, although there are several pointed shots of a nuclear power plant or some such thing behind her house. Imagine if she were in X-Men. The Toothed Avenger. I would definitely watch that, with a big bowl of popcorn. She would be more of a moral crime-fighter though, and that's pretty heavy ethical stuff, so I don't think Professor Xavier would let her in. I mean, how would she even prove her mutation? Castrate Wolverine? He could probably grow it back. Okay, that's enough.

I can see how some people would be turned off by the subject matter, but I'm going to keep it real here and tell you that I that it was super funny. I understand the male aversion to the old vagina dentata myth, but come on. Rapists getting what they deserve? Priceless.

I guess the only real problem I had with the film was the weird incest side-plot with her step-brother. Yes, they are steps, but they were raised as siblings. Also, the brother names his dog "Mother." So you can see that things are pretty messed up in this movie about teeth-vaginas. Also, acting was laughable a lot of the time. AND what gynecologist sticks four fingers in there to check things out?! She should have called the Better Business Bureau. These are minor flaws in an otherwise satisfying B-movie.

I dare you to watch it.

Special bonus:

Be safe!

April 10, 2009

Strange Proposition

You may not believe that this story is true, and believe me, if it hadn't happened to me, I would have some speck of skepticism as well. And yet, the fact that it happened at the bus stop only supports the truthfulness of this story.

I had just finished research for the day (thank God), and I stopped at the Coffman bus stop to go back to Pioneer. I know it's not a far walk, but I was lazy this morning and fate was not on my side. I was also wearing a dress (was that why it happened? I'm going to start wearing baggy clothes) and it was windy, so the bus sounded like a good idea at the time.

I missed the connector, as usual, so I stood next to the bus stop sign and waited for the next one to come. As I was standing there, a man in an orange parka, with a backpack and a scruffy look to him walked up to me. I thought he looked maybe about late 20's to early 30's, fairly normal, nothing to make him stand out. Until he opened his mouth.

Here is what he said, as exactly as I can remember it:

"Hi, I know I don't know you, but I just wanted to say something to you. You have an unparalleled beauty that needs to be noticed by the world. I would like to ask you a question. With your permission of course, I would like to get down on my knees right here and kiss your feet."

My reply: "Uh…I don't really feel comfortable with this."

I must stop here and just tell you what my feelings were at the point he asked to kiss my feet. When he first told me I was beautiful, I thought maybe he was just shy around women and was trying to use some oddly planned pick-up line. But when he got to the foot fetish thing, the only thing I could think was this is a joke. But he kept going. At which point I thought please tell me this is the psych department doing some weird research study. When he was done talking and I left, no one gave me any debriefing, so I am forced to conclude that this was not the case. The third thing I thought may be kind of mean or judgmental, but it's a two-part question: I thought at the time that he was either "mentally unstable" (my brain gave me this word, maybe from abnormal psychology classes) or that he just had a foot fetish and wanted to be normal about it. I felt bad. The apple of his cheek continuously twitched as he spoke and I found myself staring at it because I didn't know what to do.

I just want to tell you now that there is no end to this story and I cannot explain this man's words. So I will just note the rest of his speech.

"I know this might seem forward and this is an awkward question, but I would like to get to know you and maybe make my way up to that point. I realize that I might not be worthy of you, but I would like us to get to know each other. So, with your permission, would it be okay with you if we had a more formal introduction?"

My reply: "Uh…I don't really feel comfortable with this."

I had no idea what to say, what to do, what to think. It was surreal. I felt myself swaying on the spot with weirdness. The sun was too bright. All I could think was, where the fuck is the bus? To continue:

He said, "Well…there's no way to back away from this without being awkward, so…" He then stared at me. I said, "Well, thank you." He then backed away awkwardly, laughing that he didn't mean to be weird. He stood behind me for five solid minutes while I waited for the bus. It never came. Kamran called me and I immediately answered. He wanted to know if I could eat lunch with him at Coffman. I said "YES I'LL BE THERE IN A SECOND." I walked off to Coffman and didn't turn back.

When I told Kamran, he said, "Well he got his wish."

"What wish?"

"I've noticed your unparalleled beauty."

He thinks he's so funny. What a suck-up.

I called my mom and told her. After laughing at me for about thirty seconds, she said I should have told him that I was married and my husband wouldn't appreciate him kissing my feet. I had thought about saying I had a boyfriend, but for some reason, I didn't want to disappoint the guy or make him sad. My sister said it was hilarious.

I ended up walking home after eating with Kamran. I don't think I'll stand at the bus stop again for awhile.

December 1, 2008

The Ruins (Book)

I just finished this book last night, and I have to say, I didn't expect it to scare me the way it did.  I had about 200 pages left when I picked it up at 11. I couldn't go to bed without finishing it, I had to know what happened.

I've never seen the movie, and I've heard it's terrible.  I got the book for free when the book store I worked at shut down.  I almost didn't grab it, but I'm glad I did.

I've tried to explain the plot to about ten different people, and every time I say it, I get strange looks and raised eyebrows.  Yes, it's about a plant that kills people.  But somehow, the author makes it work.  The vines that are trying to kill these college students are terrifying, for some reason I still haven't figured out.  When I fell asleep last night I was afraid one of them would crawl out from under my bed and smother me in my sleep.  It's a bleak story, and it will stay with you.  I read it with the lights on and my feet were not touching the floor.  That's one thing I always do when I watch scary movies or read scary books.  I lift up my feet so they aren't touching the ground; you never know what monsters could be hiding under your bed, waiting for you to be scared already so their jobs are half over.

The best thing about this book is the fact that you can see the ending a mile away, but you want to see how the characters get there, you want to see how that ending is possible.  And some of it just made me sad.  There isn't a whole lot of room for character development in a story like this, but even so, you get to know and love/hate the characters.  When Amy died, I was shocked (yes, I ruined it.  Go cry to your mom.) and appalled.  I really thought she would survive.  And the brutal way she dies is awful, it reminded me of the semi-rant I went on during a past review where I complained that good horror has an out, by which I mean there has to be hope, it can't just be death-death-death.  But here, that works.  I couldn't see it any other way.  If it weren't like that, there would be no horror in it.  It makes me think about what I would do in that situation, which character I would be most like.  I've decided on either Amy or Stacy, not just because they are females, but because of the circumstances that kill them off (oops, spoiler alert).  I must admit that I don't think I would have used the same method of death as Stacy chose (I would have had the Mayans shoot me, with the gun though, not the arrows), but I definitely would have taken the same conclusion.  I wouldn't have been as strong as Jeff, as stupid as Eric, or as calm as Mathias.  And I sure as hell wouldn't have been as ridiculous as Pablo.  Why the hell would you volunteer to go down into an abandoned mineshaft with a thin rope holding you from your death?  Shame on you, Pablo.

The other thing that really bothers me, and I realize it's fiction, these people were not real, but it bothers me that they were so young.  They were all going to grad school or med school or whatever future they had planned out.  And they didn't get to realize it. That just makes me sad, because of course that happens all the time.  Not the evil vine thing, but the young death thing.  They'll never again feel love or happiness or anything really.  I would have used those tequila bottles to burn down the whole forest.  But that's just me.  If I have to die at the hands of a stupid vine, you bet your ass I'm not going down without a fight.

November 24, 2008

La Moustache (France)

Continuing with my current theme of foreign horror, I add this weirdly frustrating French hors d'oeuvre to the menu. (That was pretty clever.  But also a little pretentious.  I'm sorry, it won't happen again.  I detest when people speak French when not in France or possibly Quebec.  They just do it to brag about how cultured they may or may not actually be.  Especially when they take six week online courses and deem themselves ready to teach school-children in France how to speak English.  I once met a guy who pronounced France how the French do (Frahhhh-nce). I wanted to slap him and tell him not to be such a dick. And he was a first year, first semester French student.  C'est la vie.  See? That's what I'm talking about.  Isn't that annoying? I could go on and on for days about how much that bugs me.  You are not French. You never will be.  How many French lessons have you actually had?  Not enough.  Even with seven years of French under my belt, I don't pull that kind of shit.)  And yes, that is how you spell hors d'oeuvre. I didn't even have to look it up.

From what I could interpret, which decidedly was not much, this French guy, who's name was probably Jacques or Pierre or Jean, (edit: It was Vincent. Sorry for my blatant stereotypes. I should probably cross-reference things more often, rather than relying on my faulty memory) decides one day to shave off the moustache he's had for like thirty years.  He shows his wife, who I remember was named Agnes, and her two friends, but they don't understand why he thinks he used to have a moustache.  They deny the whole thing and tell him he's just being silly; he's never had a moustache and he's crazy, etc.  It's a little jarring because you don't really realize whether the others are crazy or just Vincent. But it's also a little annoying because you start to think, "Who cares? It's just a moustache.  Grow a new one."  It wasn't even a horror movie really, because it wasn't like the moustache attacked anyone or haunted anyone.  It was more of a weak thriller that just kind of mildly amused the audience of pretentious (there's that word again) college students pretending to be progressive and avant-garde.  So a French film, basically.  (Another stereotype, I'm not a good person.)

I guess it wasn't that bad, besides the bizarre moustache-themed plot.  Vincent ends up going to Hong Kong for some weird reason, maybe to track down his lost moustache or something.  But I saw the movie for free, which is always nice in the end.  And I do like to experience French cinema because I'm a seventh year French student and I like to be assured that I do know some amount of the French language.  I'm better at listening and writing in French than I am at speaking it, so I probably should practice that more. But I would much rather just go see a movie.  The one thing about most of the French horror that I've seen is that it seems to focus more on the bizarre everyday things that may happen to a person, and I've heard of a lot of French directors of thrillers and horror who try to imitate a Hitchcockian style of direction and plot.  Which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.  I don't understand the appeal of copying another director. I get that people love Hithcock, I do too, but wouldn't you rather carve out your own little niche than try to copy someone else? (I'm talking to you here, Shyamalan.)  I just think it would be a lot more creative to come up with your own ideas.  A lot more satisfying and rewarding, at least.  But what do I know?

November 23, 2008

The Host (Korea)

I bought this Korean horror gem this weekend at Target for $15.  How could I pass that up?  I saw it on Netflix last year after hearing a lot about it, and I'm just going to say that it's probably in my top 10 monster movies of all time. I loved it. I know a lot of people who hate subtitles (which is ridiculous), but I think even without the subtitles and not knowing Korean, the message comes across clear enough: Monster attacks city, steals little girl, takes her back to his lair to eat her, she hides from him, the girl's dad will stop at nothing to get her back.  I just realized I used male pronouns for the monster the entire time.  Does that make me a monster sexist?  Maybe.

I just watched half of the movie again tonight. I forgot how funny and endearing it was.  And how good the cinematography is.  I guess I don't really think of Korea as a great producer of films, but this one is very well-made.  All the actors do a great job, the monster is a great use of special effects, the humor translates well.  The man character, the dad with blond hair, is especially compelling.  He's funny but clumsy and always well-meaning.  I would like to see that actor in another role, to see if he keeps up that bumbling oaf complex or switches it up.  The little girl is cute too. (I'm avoiding writing the names because I know I won't spell them right.)  The way she's able to evade the monster, even when all the adults around her get killed is awesome.

So basically I have only praise for this one, which makes the review probably a lot more boring than the normal reviews.  But I really recommend it to anyone, even casual fans of Asian horror.  It's not scary, but that's not really what it's going for.  It's a monster movie, and let's face it, monsters in this vein of cinema haven't been scary since maybe the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  The only "monsters" that people are still honestly fascinated by are the Universal monsters, Dracula and possibly the wolfman.  Vampires have really come into fashion lately, so that's what everyone finds to be scary or sexy or romantic or whatever.  But why does it have to be that way?  I'm not saying that the weird fish/lizard/frog monster in The Host is sexy and romantic, but I would say he (or she) is at least interesting and different.  Why can't that be scary to us anymore?  Remember in the 50s when giant fake lizards and Godzilla and giant spiders and stuff were scary?  I admit I wasn't around in the 50s so I guess I don't know for certain whether people were actually frightened by these things, but if they weren't, then why did this become a subgenre in horror?  I'm just saying that someone needs to bring back the monster movie, and if anyone is taking any forward steps in that direction, it's definitely The Host.  It's such an old story, the whole kidnapped-by-a-monster thing (Beauty and the Beast? etc), but the way it's told in The Host is very fresh.  The humor lightens it up, and the filmmakers really know how to make sure people really care about the little girl who is kidnapped.  I won't spoil the ending, but you will want to watch it again.

November 18, 2008

Infection (Japan)

Another entry in my long-list of semi-watchable J-Horror.  That was a lot of hyphenation.  Since I've basically run out of American horror that isn't horrendous and doesn't star the latest teen scream queen, I've moved on.  It's a significant part of my life, the transition from American horror to foreign horror.

It's not that the movie was bad; it's that the movie could have been so much better.  Sure, it had some gross-outs and some genuine scares, but there seems to be this idea that pervades all horror, in the U.S. and abroad, that any and all scary movies or thrillers must have twist endings to be worth anything.  And it's absolutely not true.  Why can't they just go with the predictable "everybody gets away" or "everybody dies" solutions?  It's worked so many times before, why wouldn't it work now?

So Infection is about (you guessed it) an infection in a hospitable somewhere in Japan.  The doctors have no idea what this disease is all about, but they quarantine themselves in the hospital nonetheless.  They don't contact any outside help, because apparently they are geniuses and don't need anyone but themselves.  So a guy dies because they used the wrong injection or something, and the girl who did it keeps freaking out.  The hospital is tinged with green lighting, which you know provides the perfect atmosphere for horror.  I've always said, a better decorating scheme could prevent up to 90% of the terrible things that happen to people in horror movies.  Monsters and murderers and diseases don't want to attack a nice little suburban home with a white picket fence.  They want the creepy hospital, the lake cabin in the middle of nowhere, the house at night left with just a babysitter, the subway station when no one is around.

Anyway, the disease turns people into zombie-type things or something, and their blood is green and squirts all over the place.  I guess that was worth watching, but not much else was worth the time.  Also, none of the characters were clearly developed and it was hard to know who they were talking about half the time.  Although one girl does eat "dumplings" that turn out not to be dumplings at all.  Use your imagination to figure that one out.

I just realized that anyone reading any of my horror reviews must think I'm terribly screwed up from all this violence and fear and such.  I'm not though, at least not to my knowledge.  I'm taking a child psychology class, and they keep telling me the correlations between violence, aggression, and violent television.  But I've been watching violent TV and movies since I was about 3 years old.  And I've never hurt anyone.  I just enjoy horror movies.  I've discussed this before in an earlier review that I'm too lazy to look up, but you can find it yourself if you really feel it's necessary to read my anonymous ramblings again.  But basically, to answer my own question, I'm just a normal person who has a fascination with the human impulse towards the grotesque and the brutal.  And if that's weird, than I guess I have nothing else to say.

November 11, 2008

Werewolf Movies: Ginger Snaps

Thanks to Tammy for the comment…if I had known I would get the most responses to my Twilight reviews, I would have reviewed each book separately.  Don't worry, I haven't read the fourth yet (I'm dreading it) and I'll see the movie with my little sister.  The reviews will come soon after.

Can anyone even name a werewolf movie besides The Wolfman?  Are there any good ones out there, you may be asking yourself?  There are good werewolf movies, but they are few and far between.  There's just something about a half-wolf/half-man creature that just doesn't translate well to the screen.  Whether it's about special effects capabilities or just the blemish on werewolves' reputations that is Teen Wolf, there's just no longer a market for werewolves.  They're out of fashion, vampires are in again, so there's no room for another Universal monster-type.  But, lo and behold, out from the uppermost Northern regions of the cold, icy mistress that is Canada we have Ginger Snaps.  A clever play on words once you realize that the main character, Ginger, snaps and turns into a werewolf.  C'est drôle.  Using werewolfism as a metaphor for puberty is not a new idea (hello? turning into a werewolf once a month? blood? general irritation at the world? a woman turning into a snarling beast?  how sexist.), but the film certainly spices it up a bit with the inclusion of the Goth stereotypes and high school locations.  It also includes the wonderful Emily Perkins, who you may or may not remember from IT as Beverly Marsh.

The people need to be more aware of the options available to them concerning werewolf movies.  It is now my mission to preach, take it to the streets.  Don't rule them out yet, there are good ones.  I'm waiting for a full-on comeback.

I watched this movie with my little sister over the summer, and I remember being happy that we found a horror movie that we had never seen and that we actually enjoyed.  That doesn't happen too often, so maybe the far reaches of Mother Canada will be able to provide more horror for our insatiable thirst.  The atmosphere was good, the high school scenes, while not reflecting my own personal high school experience (I'm not a werewolf or a Canadian, the culture is just so very different), was still fun to watch (like a very warped DeGrassi episode), and the oblivious parents were great, especially when Brigitte and Ginger have to hide the dead body in the back yard.  The girls are Super Goths, so the parents don't ever suspect anything.  The girls often recreate gruesome death scenes in their kitchen or backyard just for shits and giggles, as young girls often do when exploring their identities.  Oh, kids.

My one complaint about this superior werewolf tribute would be the special effects involved in the creation of the creature herself.  Ginger has a tail when she's not a werewolf.  A little weird and disgusting, and I'm not really sure how it fits in with the whole werewolfism-as-menstruation metaphor.  I don't remember whether the werewolf was a puppet or computer generated, but either way it wasn't that great.  But oddly, it didn't detract from the film.  Still a good one to watch during a full moon.

November 10, 2008


Here it is, the grand-daddy of all horror films.  Or at least the supposed origin of the slasher film.  But much classier, and with more cross-dressing.

I love this movie.  Love love love it.  Anthony Perkins is perfect as Norman Bates, the mother-loving murderer of the Bates Motel.  (Yes, I spoiled the ending, but if you haven't seen the movie or at least know the basic plot line, then shame on you.)  I love Anthony Perkins so much that a few years ago, I used to go to a local old-people restaurant (and by this I mean there were a lot of old people present, they didn't serve old people as food or anything) and there was a waiter there who looked exactly like Anthony Perkins.  I called him Anthony sometimes, to myself.  I don't know how he would have reacted if I had called him that to his face, but I really don't even remember his real name, as sad as that is.

So in eighth grade I went through a Hitchcock phase, and this was always my favorite one.  I'm sure some film buff would tell me that this was Hitchcock's worst film or it had no subtlety or something, but when you're raised on horror, how can you help but be drawn to it?  The fact that Marion Crane is killed off in the first third of the movie is shocking, especially since she's billed as a star and the main character.  She's not even in most of the damn movie.  Do they even do that kind of thing anymore?  I can't think of an example, but maybe I just don't make good connections between films.

All anyone ever remembers from this movie is the famous Shower Scene.  It's famous, so it must be capitalized.  It's the law.  With good reason too, because it's very well-done and eerie.  The music (mimicked in Signs); the slightly erotic stabbing motions, which make no actual blood or gore, oddly enough; the shadow of the "mother" figure, who looks a bit like a senile grandmother; the chocolate syrup used for the fake blood running down the drain, since the filmmakers figured, it's in black and white, no one will notice.  Perfection.

They remade this movie, didn't they?  I never forced my self to watch the remake, which I imagine would be like drinking a bucket of vomit.  Terrible tragedy.  Vince Vaughn?  How could you think that you could carry a role like that?  It's a shame.

That Shower Scene, I think, has frightened generations of people to be a little more lax with their hygiene rituals, especially at road-side motels.  Who wants to take a shower at a little armpit hotel like that, and risk being stabbed to death by Norman Bates?  Not me.  And why wouldn't Marion lock the door to the bathroom?  If memory serves me right, I think she even left the door slightly open.  What a silly person.

There's so much to this movie that sadly couldn't be addressed in that time period, because of the social mores and all that fun stuff.  Like, what exactly was Norman Bates doing while watching Marion through the peephole behind the picture frame?  One can only guess.  It wouldn't have been very classy to have anything too graphic, but it's pretty obvious he wasn't just watching her.  And what did Norman do with his mother's corpse in the basement?  I'm sure he didn't just drink tea with her and don her clothes every now and then to go trick-or-treating.  Maybe I'm reading too much into Bates' latent sexuality, but it's all a little suspicious if you ask me.

So Marion gets killed, Norman goes to jail and his thoughts are in a female voice, he won't harm a fly, etc.  How did this movie spawn two sequels?  I've never forced myself to watch them, but I'm sure they involved some convoluted plot twist that had Norman escaping from prison to be reunited in some sick love story with his deceased mother.  What a happy ending.

So if you want to see the basis for twenty years of shitty slasher movies, go rent Psycho.  Make sure it's not the Vince Vaughn version, or I will have to slap you.

November 9, 2008

Haute Tension (High Tension)

I've heard this movie get a lot of crap for being a slasher, for featuring a very odd twist (which I enjoyed personally), for being French, and for featuring some extremely soft-core masturbation scenes.  That's all fine and dandy, but I still liked the movie.  Call me crazy, but when someone releases a slasher that is actually compelling and suspenseful, I can't get enough of it.  It's like the first time you see Jason jump out of the lake into that canoe, or when the hall monitor turns into Freddy Krueger, you just knew some crazy shit was about to happen.  Same thing here, only more European and with less of the "half-naked American teenagers go to the lake only to get slaughtered one-by-one" vibe.  Of course the main female characters are very pretty and sexually open (that's not the word I'm looking for; I can't really describe it, but you know what I mean).  Of course the violence is over-the-top and gushing, just how it should be.  Of course all the French people speak French.  But it's still more than just a slasher.

It has the obligatory twist ending, which I actually enjoyed.  Since the film was made, there have been many, many more movies following the same formula.  But it still works; it still has that power to shock you.  The violence even got to me a little bit, even a hardcore veteran of schlock horror.  I just never really get why they have to kill off children or animals in horror movies, that's probably why it affected me.  Even killers need to have some limits, and I think children should be one of those.  There's a reason they don't include kids in video games like GTA: they don't want you to murder them.  (Although, it's of course okay to kill men and women, as long as they are of a certain age.  Do not question Rockstar, they are all-knowing in the ethics department.)

The sheer terror shown by the main female is wonderful; Cecile de France, I think is her name.  (Why do I know that?)  She does a great job at being the Final Girl.  (Read Carol Cleaver's excellent study of women in horror called Men, Women, and Chainsaws. What a fantastic title for a book.)  She reminds me a bit of Nancy in Nightmare on Elm Street or even Laurie Strode from Halloween.  She's resourceful, she fights back, she doesn't give up.  It's a shame what happens to her, it really is.  But I won't ruin the twist.

As far as villains go, up until the end, the bad guy in this one is quite bland and forgettable.  He's just some greasy trucker-man who wears a yucky coat and practices unsafe sex.  (See scene one for evidence.)  He has no real motive besides this sexual fetishism, I suppose, but it's enough.  He's a French cross between Rusty Nail from Joy Ride and that damn demon-man from Jeepers Creepers, except without the supernatural bullshit.  I kept wanting him to say, "Caaandy Caaaane."  I don't remember him ever having any actual dialogue, until the end maybe, just a little growling.

I've seen this movie in the original French and with some extremely well-done English subtitles.  I would recommend the movie in either format, depending on what you're comfortable with.  I'm pretty sure that most people can guess the ending before it happens, but it's still well-done.  So watch out for it.  And watch out for French truckers.

November 1, 2008

The Exorcist

I finally decided to write a post about the Exorcist, and it's been a long time coming, only because to me, it is the scariest movie ever made.  So I have a lot to say about it, I suppose.  A lot of people, especially people my age, will disagree with me that this movie is even a bit frightening.  They say the effects are fake, the plot is boring, and the monster isn't even scary, it's just a little girl.  I disagree; for me, that's why the film is so intense.  What's so weird about a little girl being the main source of evil in the film?  What about The Ring? Pretty good.  Silent Hill? Absolute shit. Any Japanese horror movie in the last ten years? Ranges from brilliant to mediocre.  But my point is, kids are scary for some reason.  Maybe the message is that we should stop having children.  I don't know, I'm not a film major.  And if I was, I would have a lot bigger problems than what other people think about The Exorcist.

You can't go wrong with this movie, if you want to be scared.  Sure, the build-up is slow, but that's what's so brilliant about it.  It has you by the balls before you even know it's a horror movie.  Sure, there's lots of blood and vomit and obscenities, but the psychological aspect is what drives the story, both book and movie.  It's hard to get over the fact that Reagan is just a normal, regular little girl who happens to be possessed by the devil (or Pazuzu, in the book, but apparently that was too ridiculous of a name for the film.)  Like it could happen to anyone.  I don't personally know anything about exorcism, but it's fascinating, whether it's true or not.  Even just taking it psychologically, without the religious factor, it's fascinating, how someone can be that much affected by his or her own mind.

The movie following religiously close to the book (that was a pun).  Scene by scene, almost, just like the Silence of the Lambs.  The author claims the book is based on a true story, but I highly doubt that he can follow that up with any real facts.  It would be interesting and everything, but I really don't think it happened.  Especially in the last century, with all the advances of medical science and psychology, we already know that the idea of exorcism is often applied to those with psychological disorders.  That doesn't make them any less fascinating, just more realistic.  It's the same thing for me with ghosts.  I don't claim to know whether they exist or not, but a helluva lot of people think they do.  I have no evidence either way, so I won't comment.

But if anyone tells you they weren't at least a little scared of this movie, that person is a liar.  Watch this film alone at night with all the lights out, you won't be able to sleep.  I still wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and think that the demon-possessed little girl is going to be crawling towards me spewing pea-green vomit.  Scary and repulsive.  People tell me all the time that the Exorcism of Emily Rose is way scarier, but those people are liars.  They just watch movies for the pretty colors and moving screen.  This movie was insane when it first came out, it had such an effect on audiences, although I guess that's only what I've heard from the filmmakers and DVD releasers.  And they do tend to exaggerate.  But I like to think that The Exorcist is the movie that really gives horror a good name.  It turned the genre from something just intended to bring cheap shocks and gross-outs and turned it into a study of the mind and how much it can take.  Again, I might be blinded by my love for this film and reading too much into what just isn't there, but I really think that the psychology, especially that of Father Karras, is what makes this film a cut about the rest of the schlock horror that was previously being released.

I know a lot of people who refuse to watch The Exorcist because they think it will scar them for life.  It will.  But that doesn't mean you shouldn't watch.  In fact, I think that means you should watch it immediately.  What is the purpose of film than to change your life?  Sure, it entertains.  But don't you need something deeper than that sometimes?  Even if it changes you by making you afraid of the dark or terrified of using Ouija boards, isn't that better than sitting through another Saw movie and just wanted to yawn and vomit quietly into your popcorn box?  I would rather have something really affect me than to just go through life bored and discontent.

A few quick notes on some of my favorite parts.

All the religious imagery and blasphemy: sometimes hard to stomach, always hard to watch.  I'm Christian, so it does bother me but I'm almost glad they included it to show the raw evil of the demon.  It makes it much more disturbing and gruesome.

The "subliminal" messages: This movie got into a bit of trouble for including some subliminal imagery (watch when Chris walks through the kitchen, a demon head flashes on the stove, look on imdb for more instances.)  But I think when you catch it, it makes the movie all the more frightening.  And looking for the images is half the fun.  Watch the original demon-head trailer on youtube if you want to poop your pants in fear.

Both Father Merrin and Father Karras are brilliantly portrayed by Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller respectively.  Watch for Father Karras' dramatic end, so sad.

Linda Blair is the creepiest kid ever.  Especially when she's raising her arms up in the bed and the demon appears behind her. What the fuck?

"Dami, Dami, why you don't visit me, Dami?"  Poor Mama Karras.  I knew a kid named Damien and I called him Dami sometimes.


Have fun sleeping after you watch this one.

October 30, 2008

Halloween (The Holiday, not the Movie)

Halloween has always been my favorite season because it's basically the only time of the year when my favorite movies are truly appreciated. This is my time, my chance to share what I love. Haunted houses, ghost stories, trick-or-treating, FearFest on AMC (why isn't it MonsterFest anymore?), scary movies released in theaters, costumes, pranks, the leaves falling from the trees, Bradbury's autumn people. I love it all. There's some weird feeling in the air in October. Not scary, just weird.

I know that as a holiday, Halloween is more for children than anyone else. But I urge you to make a claim for Halloween, make it your own. Spend the day watching scary movies (use some of my recommendations!), read a Stephen King novel, buy a costume, tell scary stories by a campfire (a little cold for that, but kudos if you go old-school), eat some candy at least, just get scared. Most people don't enjoy being afraid, but why not? As long as the fear is safe, with no real danger, it should be fun. Screaming your head off at a haunted house is fun because you know you are safe and it will all be over soon- you can laugh with your friends at how you sounded like such a baby. That's why I love horror films- I can be afraid, but at a distance.

I'm going as a pirate this year. I'm going to a party and I'm going trick-or-treating. I'm going to watch a ton of horror movies, like I always do. And I'm going to be scared. I hope you are too.

Happy Halloween.

Suicide Club

When I explained to a coworker this summer that I didn't "get" this film and that the ending didn't make any sense, she kindly explained to me that I just didn't understand Japanese culture. That may be true, but I wouldn't use it as an excuse; the movie would have sucked either way. I've already explained that I love foreign horror; this was just a bad movie.

As a way to convey the confusion and general lack of any narrative form in this film, I will give an itemized summary of all the plot points that I remember.

1. 40-some school-girls throw themselves in front of a moving train, spraying bystanders with blood and guts (mimicked in Hostel?) Before their weird and fake-looking deaths, they all hold hands and say a little nursery-rhyme. The blood was pink.

2. Everybody starts hearing about the suicides (like in The Happening?) and start committing suicide themselves. Case in point, a bunch of high-schoolers hanging out on the roof of the school (we never got to do that) decide to joke around about forming a Suicide Club (clever, huh?) They all stand in a line like the girls at the train station and hold hands on the very edge of the roof. They all laugh until-oops!-one of them was serious. She jumps and the rest are pulled along with her. Apparently they just weren't intelligent enough to let go of each other's hands. One boy and girl were smart enough. But-oops again!-the girl is traumatized by her friends' deaths (I wonder why?) and she pushes the guy off (because he wasn't smart enough to get down off the ledge) and jumps. They were asking for it.

3. The police receive in the mail a long roll of skin from the victims, implying that the suicides were actually murders, or some ridiculous shit like that. Ooooh, spooky. Also, does the Japanese postal service regularly deliver things of that nature? Besides being just plain gross, the skin was never fully explained (if it was, please explain it to me) and just had nothing to do with anything. There was some nonsense about all the victims having a certain tattoo, but the sheer logic of the whole thing...little school girls?...I just can't even go on.

4. Someone explain the pop band to me, and the numbers they hold up, which when typed into a cell phone, spell "suicide." They all watched these little Japanese girls wearing overalls singing innuendo-laden lyrics. Then they committed suicide. A commentary on the vapid-ness of pop-stars? A warning about consumer culture? Stupidity at its finest? Who knows, and for that matter, who cares; they didn't get the message across.

5. Grossest scene: Definitely the woman slicing carrots going a little too far in her chopping, and cutting all her fingers off, eventually moving up to her wrist before the scene "cuts away" (haha).

So maybe I don't understand Japanese culture. But I'm pretty sure their culture isn't just about carrots and lost fingers. Just a bad movie, no more, no less.

October 27, 2008

Saw V

Why, oh why did I see this movie?  Is it ironic that a film about torture could be such torture to view?  Blatantly sexist, ridiculously over-the-top, violence for violence's sake, a continuation of the travesty that this series has become.  Why did I have to go to this movie?  I'll tell you why: my cousins wanted to go to a movie.  I had to choose between the two atrocious horror movies: Saw V or High School Musical 3.  I figured I would go to the one that wouldn't haunt me at night.  The one that wouldn't cause me to wake up screaming in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.  Just the thought of Zac Efron gives me the shivers.  Watching the Wildcats singing onscreen would be like tumbling into the abyss, the hell-fires surrounding me as my vertigo causes my blood to freeze in my veins, the empty terror overcoming me.  So Saw V just wasn't scary, comparatively.

I always have to laugh when people tell me certain shitty horror movies are scary.  (Read: The Grudge).  But if anyone tells me this film was scary, I will punch them in the jaw.  I can't believe this movie was even made.  How could anyone still have dignity after attaching his or her name to this film?  I would wear a paper bag over my head.  Oh, and happy day, Saw VI is in production.  Not Saw 6 of course, Saw VI, because that makes it legitimate, like a Shakespearian production.  Roman numerals are just another way to make this film seem worthwhile.  Don't be fooled.  It's just a rehash of the same damn story that was okay and even slightly shocking/scary in the first film.  I won't go into the other films, I will take this one on its own (lack of) merit.  Plus, I've already reviewed the rest and I don't feel like spitting out my own opinions yet again about the same things over and over.

So first off, it was predictable.  People get kidnapped, "twist" at the end that I saw a mile away, maybe eight miles away.  Bad guy gets away to make the next movie.  Dr. Lawrence Gordon is mentioned for absolutely no fathomable reason.  People are stupid and don't listen to the cassette tape (will Jigsaw ever get more technologically advanced?  I'd like to see him put his little messages on people's iPods.)  Everybody dies.  There, now you don't have to see it.  I normally feel extremely bad about ruining the ending of a movie, but you know what?  Fuck it.  If you want to see it that badly, you'll waste your money either way.

Plus these little shit kids sat behind us the whole time kicking our chairs and making annoying noises.  I told on them.  I'm a grown-up now.  I would have kicked their asses, but they were about twelve, and I don't feel like going to jail.  So I did the next best thing.  They were pissed, but they shut up.  What irresponsible parents allowed those little shits to go to that movie by themselves?  They should be put into a Jigsaw trap.  Not really, they would probably just be bored to death.

But it just makes me weep for humanity that these films keep being made.  Although I guess it does give me a lot to write about… But in the end, is it really worth it?


Absolutely not.

October 18, 2008

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Most people I talk to now think that I'm talking about the remake with Jessica Biel.  I am not.  I would never talk about that movie.

So the original is a little dated.  And the remake has a sleek look to it.  But that does not in any way make that a good movie.  In fact, it makes it a terrible movie.  I have no supporting argument for any of this, but you don't care.  I think sometimes that people just enjoy remakes better because the colors aren't so washed out, the special effects are comparatively better, and they recognize the actors.  Hurray.  I think I already wrote about this.  I don't remember.  But I think if you're judging a film (especially in the horror genre) by these qualifications, you need to really reevaluate your life.  Maybe it's just me, but I think there's something superior about an older film in terms of fear.  That grainy, old film-style is a lot scarier than the over-saturated look that the remake has to offer.

It's been awhile since I've seen this movie, and I have to admit that the first time I saw it, I just thought it was odd, but in a good way.  I take that back, I still think that.  It's just weird. There's no explanation about where Leatherface comes from or why that family is so fucked up.  That's just the way it is.  I know I have said previously that I don't like films with no explanation, but I guess for this film, I take that back.  I'm full of contradictions.  All I know is that when Leatherface opens up the door to his little meat locker and grabs that girl outside the door, I screamed.  That was so messed up.  I don't remember a similar scene in the remake.  I do kind of remember that douche-bag guy hanging from the ceiling and his toes playing piano keys since he was hanging from a meat hook.  Not really the same.  I didn't get the same impression that the Leatherface of the remake had any connection to meat preparation.  I guess they did say he was fired from a meat-packing plant or something, but the layout of his home was confusing and silly.  The meat locker in the original is much more straightforward.  Can you imagine being hung alive from a meat hook in your back?  I don't want to imagine it, I take that back.

Maybe I'm just cynical.  But think about it, how would you feel if you put all that hard-work and effort and sweat into this original horror film, no one has seen anything like it.  And then thirty-some years later, some douche from MTV no doubt thought that the original was not good enough and a remake must be commissioned to show off the sexy hotties of the day, who will immediately be massacred (with a Texas chainsaw, I think) for the masturbatory pleasure of the viewing audience.  I would be insulted.  If you think about it, they don't remake books.  Or paintings.  Or sculptures.  (Of course there are books, art, etc influenced by previous works, but not outright remakes, the actual physical "replacement" of a previous work.)  What a weird and off-putting concept.  Poor Leatherface.  He just wants his old meat locker back.   Guaranteed these remake-sequels will continue though.  When there is money to be made, the devil and the movie studios make a deal and we are treated to the results.

October 9, 2008

The Grudge

If I was to write a one sentence review of this film, it would be: why do filmmakers think long-haired Japanese women making weird throat noises are scary?

And I would leave it at that.

But since I favor longer reviews, I will continue.  My first point is that this film to me represents the true end of Sarah Michelle Gellar's career.  The final nail in the coffin, no pun intended.  You can argue that the Scooby Doo movies are what really did it, but I would say that those films are what brought her down hear career suicide.  But The Grudge was supposed to be her comeback.  And it didn't work.  What has she been in since?  Nothing.  And that's a shame, because I'm a huge Buffy fan.  Not that I think she's a terribly good actress of course, but it just sullies the Buffy franchise when Buffy herself has floated out to the Ocean of Obscurity. We all expected it of Xander and Spike, but Buffy?  No.  Her comeback failed, as did Sam Raimi's return to horror, but I'll get back to that in a later post.  So that's one reason why this movie is such a burden in my life.  A sign of the coming Apocalypse of modern horror, if you will.

The next reason is that any time I mention that I love horror or specifically Asian horror, this American remake comes up.  I've actually never even seen the original because I'm too scared it will be just as bad, although I've heard much better things about the original (as usual).  But when I talk about the scariest movie I've ever seen, some poor sap always brings this one into the conversation.

"Oh-em-gee, I effing love the Grudge, it's so scary, when that little boy meows like a cat!  It's not ridiculous, it's scary.  I pooped my pants in fear.  No joke, that is the best horror movie ever made ever ever in the history of forever.  Ever.  Also, I loved Ben Affleck in Pearl Harbor.  And I loved Pearl Harbor."

I just want to cry with the injustice of it all.  The way that people won't watch older movies because maybe they're in black and white or there aren't fabulous special effects or they don't star currently popular and vapid teen starlets.  What is this world coming to?  I just want people to forget this awful, awful film.  Move on with your lives, if you are scared by this movie, something is wrong with you.  I'm not really sure if it's a fear of foreign places and people or just the fact that people love stupid movies, but I know a lot of people who are scared by this film.  Thank you, America, but no, I don't want more remakes of Japanese films.  Why can't they just release the originals for our viewing pleasure?

The whole plot is just so convoluted and predictable.  Girl goes to foreign country, gets plagued by spirits or imprints or demons or some shit, finds out the ridiculous back story, final battle, girl wins, cliffhanger sort of ending setting up a more ridiculous sequel.  Ta-da!  Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, I know it's a masterpiece.  I'll be here all week.

Even all the image presented in the film are stereotypical elements of Japanese remakes.  Hair in the woman's face: The Ring.  Bathrooms and water: Silent Hill, Dark Water, The Ring.  Reliving a back story: The Eye.  Creepy Children: The Messengers, The Ring, One Missed Call, Silent Hill, I'll also add Resident Evil in there.  These elements are used over and over again in Asian horror and remakes.  Yes, sometimes they are very effective, like the element of technology so often used, which I have discussed extensively in previous posts.  I can't fathom why these things continue to be frightening or why they were in the first place.  But I just know that this movie is awful and I don't want to see this type of film again.  Switch it up, Mr. Raimi and other horror producers.  I am calling you out specifically, and I challenge you to mix it up.

September 29, 2008


I hated this movie.  I'll just be honest right off the bat.

I watched it on the Independent Film Channel.  Strike two.  (A joke I continue with my sister is this small dialogue: "You know why indie movies/songs are not popular music/mainstream movies?  Because no one watches/listens to them.  You know why no one watches/listens to them?  Because they suck."  A small joke, I admit.)

I'll be honest, what caught my eye (or ear?) with this film was that it was in French, and I'm a total Francophone whore sometimes.  Or I can be.  And when I saw it on TV, I immediately thought: French+Horror=Awesome.  How I thought that, I don't know, because I've seen a lot of terrible French horror.  (And American, Canadian, German, Japanese, etc…)

So the story is a rehash of the whole "horny kids drive into the woods to be killed by a madman who happens to be attempting to spawn a demon-child."  That old chestnut.  Seen it a thousand times, say no more.  The odd thing was that I'm fairly certain that the brother and sister/husband and wife were all played by the same heavily-mustached Frenchman.  Sometimes I question casting choices, but I really don't know what to say in this situation.  Of course, everyone dies, as can be plainly guessed by the fact that all the major characters are unlikable, promiscuous teenagers.  And we all know what happens to those types of characters in horror films.  It's like some weird moral judgment on sexual intercourse, but when you think about it, horror is all about sex.  Sex and horror go together, just as horror and comedy go together (although not entirely on purpose).  As I commented in my paper on women in horror, the whole penetration of the knife into a young woman may serve as some sick sexual fantasy.  Or it might just be a representation of the acceptance of violence against woman.  Or it could just be I'm reading too much into things.  And where do horror directors get off (no pun intended?) judging sexualized characters, specifically women, when they are presenting violent images that are just as unhealthy to view as massive amounts of sex?  And the swearing that abounds in horror these days, how is that okay and sex is not?  This is why horror is so fascinating to me, I think it really shows the cultural values that are relevant and important to society right now.  Or I could just be bullshitting, I don't really know.

I'm off track.  I also dislike the characterization of anyone who lives in a rural area as some kind of hick or country bumpkin.  You see it time and time again: Haute Tension, The Cottage, Jeepers Creepers, The Hills Have Eyes, Wrong Turn, The Happening, War of the Worlds, the list goes on and on.  And not just in horror.  Coming from a very rural state, I find this offensive.  I understand that cinema sort of runs on cliches and stereotypes, but I do find it annoying.  Are there hillbillies?  Sure.  But just because someone lives on a farm or in a small town doesn't he or she is a murderous, raving cannibal.  They can come from cities and be well educated and cultured too, you know.  (Hannibal Lector?)

So in conclusion, do not watch this movie.  Unless you find it necessary to witness a French woman stimulating a dog, a man's eyes getting gouged out in some kind of sick copy of Jeepers Creepers, or an entire dialogue about getting a goat off the road, please stay away.  It's movies like this that create this malevolence toward horror in general.  Go watch a good horror movie.  Or just read a book.

September 21, 2008

Bram Stoker's Dracula (Coppola, 1992)

I have to admit I was bored, so I decided to watch this one again.  I found it at Wal-Mart for five dollars and said what the hell, I'll buy it.  And I'm so glad I did.  Not only do I remember how much I used to love Winona Ryder, but I get to watch Gary Oldman take on an iconic role and be creepy yet oddly sensual.  My one regret for this film is the inclusion of Keanu Reeves.  Although he's obviously good for a laugh, sometimes I just want to shoot him in the face for thinking he could do anything besides say "whoa" or play air guitar.

Besides the classic 1931 Dracula and Nosferatu, this is really one of the best adaptations of Dracula's story to date.  Of course it took some liberties with the story, making it more of a love story across the centuries than a hunt after an old guy who happens to drink blood and defile virgins.  It makes it a lot more heartwarming and beautiful, but it kind of takes away the fear.  I read the book twice in seventh grade (I was an odd child), and I always love thinking back to it.  I really want to read it again actually.  I should get around to that someday.  But I really think it's a scary story, although I can see where they took into account the sexuality and emotion of it.  Because let's not kid ourselves, what are vampires really about?  The male vampire penetrates the young virgin (albeit with his teeth in her neck) in order to exchange bodily fluids and perform a transformation from innocent young girl to sensual vixen.  Or maybe I'm just reading too much into things.  But Coppola does a wonderful job portraying this raw passion between Mina and Dracula, and I love the way Oldman interacts with Ryder.  The characters have known each other centuries before, and now across time and bodies, they meet again.  It's really quite beautiful, if not creepy and kind of disturbing.  Dracula has been alive for centuries, while Mina's body is just a very young reincarnation of his old love Elisabeta.  So how old is Winona Ryder compared to the Dracula character? 25? 30?  That's kind of gross.

I always love throwbacks to older horror, especially in vampire movies.  There are a lot of references to Bela Lugosi and Nosferatu, among others.  The play of the shadows on the wall is especially entertaining and well-done.  The shots of Ryder's and Oldman's faces, the iconic rising of the vampire from his coffin, straight out of Nosferatu, the mirror/shaving scene with Keanu's terrible double-takes, the tears-to-diamonds scene get me every time.  The only scene I could have done without would have to be Jonathan in the pit with the women.  Why on earth they had the women licking Keanu's bleeding nipple, I could not say.  Odd choice.  I mostly try to block it from my memory, but it is really quite disturbing.  Probably the scariest part of the movie.  It could have been much better, but Keanu was there, so all hopes of greatness are lost.

Anthony Hopkins, as always, is wonderful and amazing and kick-ass.  He makes any movie worth watching.  And playing the famous Van Helsing, he can't help but appeal to the audience and breathe life into the character.  He's just so wise and calm and dignified.  But he still terrifies me.  I bet in real life he's just the nicest guy, but I can't stop thinking he might try to rip out my liver and eat it.  I wonder if he even likes fava beans.

But overall, I would say this is one of the better adaptations and that's saying something.  You can't go far in the horror section at the video store without running into Dracula.  But don't pass this one up, it's worth watching at least once.

September 15, 2008

Saw I-IV

I was thinking about doing a short list today, but then that idea turned into a large review of all four Saw movies.  Funny how things work out that way.  First off, I know there are a lot of people who despise Saw (and Hostel, and all those other types of torture horror), and I tend to agree that these movies are less about actual fear than disgust or sadness masked as fear.  Why people continue to take in this much gratuitous and useless violence is beyond me.  Although, yes, I've seen all of these films.  And who am I to denounce violence when I love horror movies and I tend to cheer on the bad guys?  I don't know, that's just the way the world works.  Lots of horror (especially modern horror) keeps up this weird tradition of having violence for the sake of violence.  "Let's see how far we can go before people get sick and vomit."  So without further philosophical discussions of the human obsession with the grotesque and the perverse, here is my badass review of the Saw series thus far:

Saw I: Being the first in the series is always a plus for any horror film or any film in general really, because people don't know what to expect and they have no preconceived ideas about how the film should play out.  This worked to Saw I's advantage, in my opinion, because there are really only so many movies you can watch about people getting killed in ridiculous ways.  And yet horror movies still exist, so maybe it is an infinite number.  Cary Elwes plays Dr. Lawrence Gordon (I think that's the character's name, and I don't care enough to research anything that is not already in my brain.)  I love Cary Elwes, but just once I wanted him to say, "As you wish," to someone in this film.  It would have worked, I think.  Plus Michael "Ben Linus/Henry Gale" from Lost is in this and I am in love with that bug-eyed little jerk.  He always plays such mean characters.  But he's just so good at it, and he creeps me out.  I don't think he knows how to smile or laugh, he's just constantly in a serious mood.  So basically, the plot played out very well and the twist was very unexpected, for me at least.  I'm usually pretty good at guessing the endings, but this one kept me guessing.  The grossest part for me was probably not the leg-sawing, but the crushing of Emerson's head with the damn toilet cover.  That was so gross.  And just the general dinginess of the bathroom.  That was just too much for me, and I'm sure the filmmakers realized that that would add to the terror.  So I would give this one an A overall.  Maybe I'm too generous, but this is my review, so I make the rules.

Saw II: I liked Donnie Wahlberg, oddly enough.  The whole Amanda-helps-Jigsaw-because-he-changed-her-life-and-she-is-possibly-in-love-with-him-now thing kind of pissed me off because I really don't think that would have happened.  It's kind of ridiculous.  I mean you can argue Stockholm syndrome all day if you want, it was still stupid.  But I guess for a horror sequel, it was okay.  The house thing, it's been done before, but I guess I didn't really mind it.  The kid in the safe at the end, that freaked me out.  I hope he didn't have claustrophobia.  But overall, in sequel terms at least, and low budget no doubt, they accomplished quite a feat.  They kept people interested enough to warrant two further sequels.  Who would have guessed that a series of films about some guy torturing people to death would make so much money?  I guessed it.  And I was right.

Saw III: This movie made me sad beyond sad.  It depressed me for days afterward.  I refuse to ever watch this film again.  It wasn't disturbing, but some things just affect me in this way, they make me sad.  Jigsaw's puzzles just get insultingly stupid.  The producers just want to have a twist at the end, they don't care how we get there.  They realized that the first two had twists, so they can't stop it now.  And they won't stop for the fourth installment either, but I'll get to that in a minute.  My main problem with this film is that no one has any choice in anything except that main guy, I think his name was Jeff.  So Jeff basically gets the choice of life or death for everyone.  Well how does that follow along with Jigsaw's plan of choices?  It doesn't.  You can argue that Amanda had too much control and made things like that, but it would be grabbing for straws.  And that poor kid at the end, he had his body all twisted and whatnot, that was disgusting.  Sometimes I think about his legs snapping, it sounded like someone cracking his or her knuckles.  Is it weird that I think about that and make that connection?  I only think about it really when I think about the Saw series, which isn't a whole lot, but still…

Saw IV:  Moving on.  Although this film technically holds a special place in my heart because I went to it on my second date with my boyfriend.  What a great date movie, he's such a romantic.  Actually, it was cute, he knows I love horror, so he agrees to watch it.  I don't know if he actually likes it or just likes me enough to watch it, but either way, he's pretty swell.  He's the only one who reads this damn thing anyway, so I don't know why I don't just write directly to him instead.  Well anyway, I guess the experience of going to the movie was a good time, but the movie was not so great.  The cop was the heir to Jigsaw's shitty morality.  There, I ruined the ending, now you don't have to go see it.  I feel like I've done you a huge favor, so you owe me.  And Donnie Wahlberg was still inexplicably alive, but then they killed him by having two blocks of ice swing down from the ceiling and squish his head like a watermelon.  Yeah.  Let that sink in for a second.  I shit you not.  Why bring Donnie back if you're just going to immediately kill him?  I hope that's not what the New Kids on the Block are planning.  Watch out, Donnie.

September 12, 2008

House on Haunted Hill (1959) AKA Not the Crappy Remake

First off, I love Vincent Price.  No doubt about it, the man was a genius.  Also, Bill Hader's impression of him on SNL is spot on.  I once got an audiobook of a collection of Edgar Allan Poe tales and poems just because it was read by Vincent Price.  And let me tell you, it made me piss myself with fear and awe.  Not really, that would be weird because I listened to audiobooks at work in the insurance company.  "Hey, here's your insurance policy, oh sorry I don't know what that stain is."  I don't think I want to publish this post anymore.  Oh well, it's already been typed, can't take it back now.  We've gone too far.

But he really is great.  Case in point: He's in Edward Scissorhands as the dad/creator of Edward.  Always I plus when you are the maker of Johnny Depp.  Second point of proof: He does the voiceover and creepy laugh in Thriller.  He made Thriller.  Thriller.

It's become really hard to scare me since I've seen too much horror to really be affected by it anymore.  I think The Shining broke that part of my brain.  So I was of course skeptical when my mom picked this one up in a one dollar bargain bin (the best kind of movie.)  But I really enjoyed it.  Not that it scared me, except for one part, but it was decently made, Vincent Price was a creepster, and I watched it with my sister so everything that was slightly silly was laughed at immediately.

So now I get to the part that actually scared me.  There's a scene where a woman (it's been a long time since I watched this) is leaning over to look at something.  She's by herself, the last thing you want to do in a horror movie.  In the basement.  What an idiot.  And then as she's leaning down, out of nowhere, this creepy old witch-lady is standing behind her and you don't even notice it for a little bit until suddenly she's there and you're screaming so loud that your mom stops doing the dishes and runs downstairs into the basement to see if you and your sister are still alive.  It was great.  That's the best part of horror and fear and all that.  It gives you this jolt of adrenaline.  I've never really been in a situation in real life where I was scared out of my mind, so I'm sure that's not so fun.  But in movies, I love it.  Maybe it's just the closest thing to danger where there's no possible way that you'll be injured or killed.  Well unless there's a murderer in the theater or your closet or under your bed or something.

I'll be right back.

Okay, it's all clear.  But seriously, I don't get scared anymore in real life.  Not of horror movies anyway.  They have no effect on me whatsoever.  It makes me a little sad.  Besides the "loud noise jump," I don't really react to them or have any problem with them.  People think I'm crazy for watching horror movies all the time, because most people don't like them or are scared shitless from them, but I'm not.  Back in the day, sure, but not now.  I don't know why, it makes me sad.

September 8, 2008

Dawn of the Dead

This is the King of All Zombie movies.  Actually, probably not, that would most likely be Night of the Living Dead, but still, this is like the Queen of All Zombie movies, or at least like a Prince or Princess, possibly a Duke/Duchess.  Plus it's a great commentary on consumerism and zombies and how zombies consume things.  The film takes place in a mall.  How better to tell people not to purchase things than to advertise things in a mall and then have zombies wreck the place up a little bit?  Zombies are the best villains ever though.  They shuffle along, as though they know they might have something to do but just can't think of it so they just hobble around in circles good-natured-ly until people with brains arrive on the scene.  They fall down a lot, they don't care about what's going on around them, and maybe they're just looking for love, hope, friendship.  Why do we have to judge zombies, just because they don't have good manners?

So it's been years since I've actually watched this movie.  Is that sad?  A little bit.  I feel bad, loving horror and yet I saw this movie about seven years ago.  I remember quite a bit of it, but still.  It's been awhile.  But funny story, I watched this movie with my dad and sister during a thunder storm.  Just when a very scary part came on screen, the TV and all the lights shut off.  Ali and I screamed because my dad kept making scary noises and being a jerk in general.  It was a good time.  We then lit candles and talked.  And we finished the movie the next day.  I enjoyed it, overall.

I never understood why zombies got such a bad rep, though.  I mean, they're dead and walking around, sure, but they are easily outrun, or out-walked really, not very bright, apparently can't open doors, and are just not too smart.  They eat brains; how can they get to them, they aren't really that strong and I feel like skulls should be strong enough to fend off one's brain from a zombie-related attack.  I think in real life, a zombie would not be able to do too much besides like nibble on your arm or be too loud during a movie.  And they're dead, that's scary I suppose because they might be decayed or have rotting flesh and whatnot, but besides possibly being a little bit visually frightening, I don't think they would do much damage.  What a weird thing to fear.  Even if the dead got out of their graves and walked around attempting to twist the tops off of people's heads in order to taste their delicious, delicious brains, how would they dig themselves out of the ground, they aren't that strong.  That's a proven fact, case in point: malls usually have huge glass doors and windows, and all they do in the film is put trucks in front of them.  Either they are too stupid to get around the trucks, or they are not strong enough to break through glass.  Yeah, that's right.  These skull-smashing zombies can't get through a thin sheet of glass.

Case solved.

August 28, 2008

Women in Horror

I thought I’d spice it up and share the paper I wrote about feminism in horror movies.  I got an A.  I don’t necessarily believe all the theory I present, but it's interesting anyway.

Fear of the Feminine

“All they want to see is demented madmen running around in ski masks hacking up young virgins.?

Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), Fright Night

The horror film is one of the least respected genres of cinema, and yet many of the values of culture today are shown within the context of horror. Scary movies reveal what frightens society most through monstrous representations and gore directed at victims who are feared by the public. These films show heavy symbolism especially in the portrayal of females and femininity, through images of sexual intercourse, fear of castration, and the strength of females. Horror films, and specifically the slasher subgenre, are famous for portraying women as hypersexual damsels in distress who are usually murdered within the first five minutes as punishment for their indiscretions. This tactic is used to great effect in such films as Friday the 13th and Halloween. Another standard of horror is the depiction of females as antagonists, which is a reflection of men’s pathological fear of women and menstruation, resulting in castration anxiety. The Exorcist and Carrie are both good examples of making the female monstrous and horrifying. However, in recent years, there has been a positive step within the horror genre toward the heroic woman in films. In movies such as The Descent and A Nightmare on Elm Street, women can be seen defeating typically male villains and exhibiting strength and intelligence. Women in horror films have come a long way, moving from victim to heroine, and I think that this change signals the acceptance of the power of women in society and can only be a step forward for feminism.

A horror film is defined as any movie specifically designed to cause fear, anxiety, or discomfort through a variety of monsters, supernatural beings, or frightening situations (Rasmussen 1). But behind all the blood, gore, and mayhem, horror films reflect a wide variety of societal views through symbolism and victim choice. The female subject is shown in horror movies in different ways through time and I believe that the present portrayal of the feminine shows progress toward acceptance and equality between the sexes (Thornham 251). Women are beginning to come into their own in the horror genre, showing that they are as strong as men and are not the sexual objects they were once perceived as in classic horror. Slasher films and films with women as villains are still being made, but the force and power of women in horror cannot be ignored (Thornham 238). Although much progress is still needed, this is a step in a positive direction and can only signal more change to come.

Women as victims have a long history in horror cinema, popularized in such classic gothic horror films as Dracula and Frankenstein (Freeland 4). These films portrayed women as frail, beautiful creatures needing to be rescued by the male protagonist from the clutches of the vaguely sexual male villain. But the subgenre only truly became popular (and disturbing) with the introduction of the slasher film, which shows a murderer stalking mainly female victims with a knife or other weapon, brutally murdering these sexually independent women very early in the film (Thornton 236). The first true slasher film is widely acknowledged to be Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece about a psychotic killer of women who is obsessed with his own mother (Psycho). In all films following, the phallic knife used as the standard method of murder speaks volumes about the symbolic punishment for these women. Because most of these females are shown early in the movie as sexually active, they are guaranteed to die first (Thornton 238). The fear of a sexually independent woman is revealed through her death, when the male killer thrusts his knife into her, taking away her sexual power through the symbolic rape of her body. “Horror is cultural apparatus for keeping the sexually active woman in her place? (Badley 102). With the knife’s penetration, the sexually frustrated male serial killer is taking away all of the woman’s sexuality and showing his power. In the majority of slasher films, this formula of the male killer targeting female victims is used to repress women and take away any power they may have had, thereby making them non-threatening to men because they hold no sexual control (Freeland 185). Male sexuality can then be shown through the act of murder, since most killers in slasher films are sexually repressed themselves (Freeland 187). Only through penetration and murder can these men find sexual freedom.

The women in slasher films are often objectified and shown as nothing more than sex objects. For example, in the Friday the 13th series, many of the women are seen half clothed and hyper-sexualized, taking away the audience’s ability to sympathize with them because they are seen as less valuable. The plot of the films takes place at a summer camp, which makes the women easy targets to be picked off by the killer, who wants revenge after drowning as a boy because the camp counselors were not watching him (Friday the 13th). The full rage of the murderer comes out most strongly in the cases of the females because of the inadequacy he feels as a male (Clover 32). Classic slasher films usually show a direct cause and effect link between sex and death, with murder serving as a symbolic punishment for any kind of immoral intercourse. “Killing those who seek or engage in unauthorized sex amounts to a generic imperative of the slasher film? (Clover 34). The symbolism illustrates a kind of unconscious moral lesson to the viewer that if he or she strays from the path of good behavior, the result could be death.

Another staple of the horror genre is the classic 1978 film Halloween, which chronicles the tale of Michael Myers, the demented killer bent on the massacre of his younger sister (Halloween). When Michael cannot reach his sister in order to slaughter her, he substitutes other young women in her place in order to justify killing them (Clover 24). Myers does not seem to care whether he kills the right girl; indeed, all females seem equal to him and killing any number of them does not bother him. He is a killing machine and nothing can truly stop him, not even the ingenuity of the main female character, who is able to repeatedly injure him but can never quite get rid of him (Clover 30). This seems to prove the idea of the superiority and strength of men over women and the fact that the males in horror films always triumph over the females. Women are shown as being weak, inferior, and less intelligent, and male killers in slasher films can never be defeated by the heroines. Slasher films usually promote the ideals of male superiority and the defeat of the feminine, but more recent films reject these stereotypes.

The slasher genre does not represent the only portrayal of females in horror cinema. Horror movies eventually moved on to newer representations of women as villains, the main source of evil in the film. These women represented the fears men associated with the female sex, and they became more terrifying than their male counterparts because of their lack of femininity and their portrayal of normally masculine behaviors. Because these women deviated from the norm, it was easier for men to see them as demonic or sinister (Thornham 256). Yet the female as villain also symbolizes the male fear of menstruation, evidenced by the large amounts of blood surrounding these characters. Although male killers in horror movies are also surrounded by blood, the association of blood with the female sex in modern horror cinema confirms her connection to sin and evil. Many horror films define women’s sexuality as “the source of all evil and menstruation as the sign of sin? (Thornham 256). Women as villains become synonymous with horror, shame, and sin because they are the source of blood.

Many horror films such as The Thing, Poltergeist, and Videodrome use rich symbolic images to represent the female genitalia in order to frighten the audience (Thornham 261). The vaginal representations in horror cinema usually give birth to some horrible monster or suck in some unsuspecting victim, showing the fear especially of the mother’s womb. These images terrify audiences because of their association with the “black hole? of the mother’s womb, which proves to men the concept of castration. The empty space seems to remind the male audience about what is missing. Barbara Creed explains that the main reason why men are also frightened of menstruating females is because of castration anxiety (Thornham 256). The woman’s body becomes the symbol of the incomplete male because of her lack of a penis, and as a result, she must bring her rage against others in the form of murder and horror because of her jealousy. The male sees his own castrated self in the part of the woman because of what she is missing, so he portrays her as evil and wicked.

One of the most famous representations of woman as villain in a horror film is that of Carrie, the shy, quiet high school student who suddenly develops telekinetic powers and uses them to take her revenge on the other students at prom (Carrie). Carrie, based on the book by Stephen King, was one of the earlier horror films to show the woman fighting back, and even though she was clearly evil, female audiences seemed to cheer on her rampage because they understood her pain (Freeland 57). The first scene of the film shows Carrie getting her first period, with her powers developing soon after (Carrie). Carrie’s power seems to come from her menstrual cycle, which is why she causes so much fear within the male sex (Clover 3). Men fear a woman’s sexual power and the fact that one day women could become equal to men using their sexuality. Carrie’s behavior only becomes evil once she has fully accepted her feminine power, showing the male fear of female domination (Clover 4). Contrasting slasher films, which depict women as weak and repressed, Carrie and her fellow female villains become the strong characters, so men must represent them as evil and strange. They are seen as abnormal because it is unusual to see a woman with that kind of power. Carrie triumphed over the stereotypes of classic horror by becoming a female villain that an audience could understand because she started out as a victim.

One of the most memorable scenes of Carrie is the climax at the high school prom, when a bucket of pig’s blood is dropped on Carrie in order to embarrass her, although the prank backfires when she slaughters her classmates (Carrie). Creed sees the pig’s blood as a symbol of menstruation because of its occurrence during a moment of intense pleasure and in a time of Carrie’s life when she is undergoing a great change (Thornham 256). Throughout the film, women are also referred to as pigs, and the flow of the pig’s blood represents the shame associated with menstruation and the beginning of womanhood. It is especially fitting that Carrie first uses her powers for evil (representing her passage into womanhood) immediately after being drenched in blood, becoming truly wicked only when associated with menstruation.

Another great example of the woman as a villain is shown in The Exorcist. Widely acknowledged as the scariest film of all time, The Exorcist tells the story of a young girl, Regan, who becomes possessed by the devil and must be exorcised by a priest in order to save her soul (The Exorcist). The film follows the same fear of menstruation, since Regan is possessed just before reaching puberty and she is transformed by the demon just as she would be by womanhood. But the change that Regan experiences in the film represents the complete opposite: through demonic possession, she becomes more masculine, with a deep voice, aggressive speech, and great physical strength (Clover 103). Regan’s body becomes perverted and “the foulness of woman is signified by her putrid, filthy body? (Thornham 256). She is seen as less of a woman and the corruption of her innocence and femininity provides the terror of most of the film. There is some terrible power seen when the young, innocent girl is transformed into a snarling, masculine beast because it is so unnatural. Males fear the power of females especially when females become more masculine, so Regan as a woman is seen as disgusting, dirty, and strange.

The film presents Regan’s predicament as a direct result of her lack of a father or any other male influence in her life, since she is raised by a single mother. Once possessed, Regan can only be saved by another male, the priest who becomes her new father figure (Thornham 256). She is shown as both a victim and a villain, and a woman in her situation can only find redemption in the male sex, according to the film. The film serves as a “lesson on what happens to the woman who drifts out of the orbit of male control? (Clover 103). Regan’s savior, Father Damian Karras, has himself lost religion and only through Regan can he regain his faith. In effect, he uses Regan for his own means and her pain brings him strength (Clover 88). Even the demon oppressing Regan is male, so she is truly being pushed from all sides by male influences, whether good or bad. Her life and her fate lie in the hands of men and she has no control over her own destiny. This signifies the desire of the male sex for control over females, again because of the fear that women will gain power in society (Clover 102). Regan made such a compelling victim/villain because of her original innocence and femininity, but it was her eventual masculinity that caused terror.

In recent years, horror films have taken a better turn toward equality for women as heroines. The concept of women as heroines has been used in many older horror films, but the women in those films were usually portrayed as weak, frail, and dependent on men. They represented innocence and beauty, often becoming the sexual fantasy of the film’s main villain, with no chance of saving themselves without male intervention (Rasmussen 7). But the women of modern horror can take care of themselves and do not rely on males for help. They utilize their femininity in order to defeat male villains and their strength frightens men because they hold the power in these films. Although slasher films and films with women as villains still exist and are made quite often, the occurrence of heroine horror has also grown into a powerful force in the modern genre.

An earlier example of the strong woman in horror actually occurs in a classic slasher film, A Nightmare on Elm Street. In the film, a monstrous child molester named Freddy Krueger stalks teenagers in their dreams for revenge after being burned alive by their parents (A Nightmare on Elm Street). Although the other female characters are murdered, the film’s heroine, Nancy, is the only one to figure out Freddy’s method and motives, and therefore is the only one to survive, even appearing in two sequels before being killed off (A Nightmare on Elm Street). As a character, Nancy is interesting because she could have become just like any other disposable woman in a slasher film, but she rises above the stereotype and becomes a heroine, showing courage in the face of evil. Nancy counters Freddy’s masculinity by using her own intelligence and strength against him, showing him her power and control as a woman. “When he enters the house, she dares him to come at her, then charges him in direct attack? (Clover 38). Nancy is a girl who is not afraid to fight for her life and believing in her own strength saves her in the end from Freddy’s clutches. At the beginning of the film, she seems like any other girl in a slasher movie, but by the end she has accepted her role and uses her feminine strength against the villain.

One scene in the film seems to show Freddy’s supposed power over Nancy and the fact that she is unafraid to fight back. After her first encounter with Krueger, Nancy takes a bath in order to rest from her stressful day and falls asleep in the tub (A Nightmare on Elm Street). The audience does not realize she is dreaming until a clawed hand rises between her open legs in the bathtub. The symbolism of Freddy’s intentions in this scene is obvious: as a male, he feels he may dominate Nancy and take advantage of her (Clover 76). Nancy is completely exposed, vulnerable, and powerless. But Freddy underestimates the power of women, a mistake that many other men in modern horror films have made, and it becomes his downfall. Nancy uses his own power against him, representing the ability of the female to use the phallic weapon against the man, meeting him on his own terms (Clover 49). Freddy, as a male, fears Nancy’s ability to abandon her femininity and become like him in order to fight back, in effect using his sexual repression and deviance against him. This is a common theme in horror films that portray women as heroines and I believe that this trend will only continue to show the strength of the female sex.

A more recent example of the courageous female in horror cinema showcases feminism and women’s strength without including the oppressive male villain. This is important because it shows that women need neither male help nor male hindrance to achieve their goals. The Descent, released in 2005, chronicles a group of women as they explore a remote series of caves in the Appalachians, eventually becoming trapped after a large cave-in. Only after searching for a way out do they discover that they are not alone: they are actually surrounded by humanoid creatures that have evolved underground and stalk them through the caves (The Descent). The film features only female main characters and each is shown as an independent, confident adventurer. Exploring these caves, with wide tunnels that obviously symbolize female genitalia and exploring their own femininity, the group must escape without male aid from an enemy that is not purely masculine. The women use their femininity to their own advantage in order to exploit the weaknesses of the creatures. In a nod to the final scene from Carrie, one of the women emerges from a pool of blood, covered head to toe just as Carrie was after the prom, which represents her acceptance of her womanhood, using the symbol of menstruation against the enemy (The Descent). The women of the film are not frail damsels in distress and they hold their own in situations that show their physical and mental strength. They don’t need the help of men because they hold their own power in a negative situation. The film is interesting because it does not include any male characters, but the women still try to overcome the monsters on their own. Because of their strong personalities and independence, the group of women is able to confirm that they can be just as courageous as their male counterparts, proving that a woman can make it in the world without the help of a man.

The Descent and A Nightmare on Elm Street indicate a new movement in modern horror toward equality between the sexes. While I don’t believe that sexist horror films will every fully disappear, I think that the direction the genre is moving toward is more positive than it has been in the past. Women are being accepted as legitimate heroes with true strength and willpower in a traditionally chauvinistic field of cinema. No longer are men the saviors of the genre. Women are beginning to play an important part in horror, not just becoming easy victims. However, many still see horror as a negative impact in film, mainly because of the extreme violence and degradation against women. But one could argue that many different genres show excessive violence as well, and women are not portrayed as they once were in classic horror. The times have changed and the portrayal of women has changed along with them. I agree that horror is not a genre for everyone, but it should at least be appreciated as a legitimate art form within cinema. If scary movies continue to move in the positive direction they have been leaning toward, the genre may become more respected and equal to other genres of cinema.

Through the medium of the modern horror film, one can view the real fears that grip society even today. Although there may not be a real Freddy Krueger or Carrie, scary movies reveal what haunts culture most. The power of women and femininity is a recurring theme in horror cinema. By portraying women as victims or villains, men have repressed the true power of the female because they fear it. Through the symbolism of penetration and menstruation, these films have tried to show women as tools of only sin and sex. But recent films have broken through the stereotypes and shown women as heroines, taking their lives into their own hands. The women of modern horror do not need the help of male figures and they often triumph over male villains. Horror cinema has come a long way since the classic slasher flick, but there is still much more to accomplish. Although sexism in horror movies may never be fully vanquished, great films have been made showing the strength and equality of women. If this trend continues, horror films may see a day when women are no longer portrayed as weak, frail, or inherently evil. Perhaps once women are respected within horror films, the genre itself will become a more legitimate form of cinema.


Works Cited

Badley, Linda. Film, Horror, and the Body Fantastic. USA: Greenwood Press, 1995.

Carrie. Dir. Brian De Palma. Redbank Films, 1976.

Clover, Carol. Men, Women, and Chainsaws. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992.

The Descent. Dir. Neil Marshall. Celador Films, 2005.

The Exorcist. Dir. William Friedkin. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1973.

Freeland, Cynthia A. The Naked and the Undead. USA: Westview Press, 2000.

Friday the 13th. Dir. Sean S. Cunningham. Georgetown Productions, 1980.

Fright Night. Dir. Tom Holland. Perf. Roddy McDowall. Columbia Pictures, 1985.

Halloween. Dir. John Carpenter. Compass International Pictures, 1978.

A Nightmare on Elm Street. Dir. Wes Craven. New Line Cinema, 1984.

Psycho. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Shamley Productions, 1960.

Rasmussen, Randy Loren. Children of the Night: The Six Archetypal Characters of Classic Horror Films. USA: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1998.

Thornham, Sue. Feminist Film Theory. New York: New York University Press, 1999.

August 18, 2008

Stephen King: Misery

I know I just did a Stephen King post, but I was in the mood for another, so humor me.  I love this movie.  I loved it so much that I read the book.  Kathy Bates (who I hinted at to those who paid attention to the last post) is hilarious and terrifying as Annie, the crazy nurse who kidnaps Paul, the author of best-selling romance novels about Misery Chastain, some stereotype of a Southern belle or something, I was never quite sure.  The details aren’t all that important to me here though, it’s the performances.  Kathy Bates rightly won an Oscar for her crazy antics, and I like to think that she also won my heart, but I guess that’s just a personal opinion.

So basically Stephen King loves to write about writers.  He’s shown this time and time again, and I’m not even going to make a list of books in which he proves this, because it’s been done too many times before by better people than me.  So just imagine I just listed a bunch of examples, and you’re really impressed with my knowledge of film and literature.  Does Stephen King put himself into these roles?  I don't know, that would be kind of creepy but I guess that's what I would expect from the director of Maximum Overdrive.  (Did anyone else hear that reference in Pineapple Express?  Great movie, by the way.)

Misery is so good because it's so over-the-top, with Kathy squealing like a pig and hobbling Paul's legs, a horny old couple who are actually pretty cute together, and (in the book) a pretty interesting re-write of Paul's original ending to Misery's story.  That's the whole point of the book, Annie is Paul's #1 Fan and she wants him to rewrite his last novel so that Misery doesn't die.  I'm sure there are many Harry Potter fans who wish they could pull a similar trick with J.K. Rowling, especially those slashers and Harry-Hermione-shippers.  And really thinking about  it, there are a lot of movies and books that I would want the endings changed to.  Not saying I would kidnap the artists involved, but interesting concept nonetheless.

I think the more horror movies I watch, the creepier my personality becomes.  Or maybe I was just always like that.

The greatest contribution this film has made in my life is probably Annie always calling Paul a "dirty-birdie."  I love it.  My sister and I say it all the time, it's a great insult when you're in front of your parents.

Oh, and back to the hobbling thing.  That is sick.  I know people freak out when they watch it in the movie, and for those who haven't yet seen the film (because I know after you read this blog post you'll rush out and rent it), I'll explain: she puts a cinder block between his legs and hits each foot from the outside with a sledgehammer, effectively breaking his legs by bending them around the block.  Just watch it, it makes sense.

But in the book I think it's worse.  She chops off his thumb and foot with an axe and then goes crazy even further, and the ending is truly terrifying.  For a non-supernatural story, King does a pretty darn good job.

But what do I expect from the guy who wrote about a killer clown-spider-thing who tries to kill John-boy Walton and Jack Tripper?

August 14, 2008

Stephen King: The Mist

I think I can accurately review this one because I’ve read the book and seen the movie.  The book was great.  The movie, not so much.  Let me correct that actually, the ending of the movie was terrible.

The whole point of the book I think is that when something deadly happens and people are trapped in a situation, they do very bad things to survive.  Instinct kicks in and they start following someone or some believe, causing all reason and law to leave the room.  Obviously King also focused on the creatures outside the grocery store, and the descriptions were really scary, but I think it was the humanity that made the story what it was.

Not so in the movie.  They didn’t even really include the scariest things, at least not in the way they were described in the book.  I know you can’t watch a movie and judge it compared to a book, I realize that some things don’t work on screen, but I don’t know, to me it just seemed like a cheap scare.  The way the tentacles and the spider-things were described in the book, I was scared for days afterwards.  Seriously, books never scare me, but this one did, I had all these plans for where I would go in case a mist covered my town.  I know that’s a little crazy, but I am not taking any chances.  I also have Zombie Evacuation Plans, but that’s for another post.  I think the reason books are often scarier than movies is that it’s all in your head.  You can use your imagination to make it as scary as you want.  But when you see it on a screen, it’s just there, and that’s it.  And when it’s over, it’s over.  With a book, it ruminates in your mind for days or weeks or years, but a movie ends and it’s gone.  Maybe it’s not the same for everyone, but that’s how I feel about it.

Not that the movie was bad.  It had some great moments, and I actually didn't hate the actress who played Mrs. Carmody, Marcia Gay Harden, who I always hate on film.  Her haircut bothers me.  Is that a legitimate reason to hate an actress?  I like to think so.  The other actors I didn't care about, except that badass old lady, she was a feisty little thing and I loved her for it.  The kid who got eaten by the tentacles was pretty good too, but everyone else was kind of throwaway.


Now to the ending:  In the book, the fact that there was no real ending was what made it so scary.  The uncertainty and the whole atmosphere, the huge mammoth beast freaked me out.  They included it in the movie, but I don't really know how to feel about it.  It was weird and scary, but not for the same reasons.  Humans have this weird fear about things we don't understand, which works well in this book, but I don't think it really translated well to the screen.  That's just me though.

Now the thing that pissed me off and ruined the whole movie for me.  The ending in the movie was ridiculous.  Yes, there was closure, but is that really the kind of closure people want?  The main character shoots all the other characters in order to "save them" from a horrible death (including his son, since it's a family movie), which in itself, sure, is a brave thing to do, but what a loss of hope for the audience.  And seconds later the military rolls in with tanks and planes?  I'm sorry, but they would have heard them much earlier and they could have easily been saved.  I felt drained after that, unhappy and disappointed.  That's not how I like to feel during horror movies.  I think what they were going for was a Night of the Living Dead ending (which pissed me off to no end, but in kind of a good way) because being trapped in the grocery store is pretty similar to being trapped in a house, with the power plays and roles and whatnot.  A lofty goal, and not quite met.  That's the real problem with this movie, it aims high and doesn't quite make it.  Stephen King isn't high literature, have fun with it.  Be like Kathy Bates in Misery.  But don't be a dirty-birdie, because that bitch will kill you.



Stephenie Meyer Update:,,20217628,00.html

Thank you, EW and Jennifer Reese, for understanding.

August 12, 2008

The Silence of the Lambs

Hannibal Lector.  Whether you like it or not, he's one of the iconic characters in cinema, everyone knows who he is, everyone has said or at least heard at one time, "Hello, Clarice."  Everyone knows how he likes to prepare his liver.  One of the best things about this movie, besides Sir Anthony Hopkins, is how closely it follows the book.  The book was wonderful, but it doesn't really come alive until Hopkins dons the face mask, solidifying Lector as one of the scariest characters in movie history.  By just speaking, he is able to convey this weird sense of madness and cool interest in Jodie Foster, who does a wonderful job as well.  You get the sense that they know these characters and they are really bringing them to life.  It makes me question Anthony Hopkins’ personal life, but I guess that’s just none of my business.

The reason this was such a great movie while Hannibal was a piece of forgettable garbage was because it focused more on the small intimate moments between Hannibal and Clarice.  I get chills every time his finger caresses her hand as he gives her the documents.  Sure, this isn’t your regular let’s-kill-all-the-actors kind of horror movie, but that doesn’t mean a thriller like this can’t be scary.  The angles they use on Hopkins’ face are beautiful (not attractive, just wonderful), and the portrayal of Buffalo Bill and his dungeon are insane.  Insane as in crazy but also in some other sense that I’m not sure about right now.  I’ll edit this later to explain.

Buffalo Bill’s voice is the scariest for me, even when he says such hilarious lines as, “Wait, was she a great big fat person?"  Funny but scary when coming from a murderer who skins his victims to make a woman suit, which is all kinds of disgusting.  Every sense of the word.  My mom warned me for years after this came out to never help a man with a cast load furniture into a van.  That’s probably the only real effect this film/book has had on my life, but I still watch it every time it’s on TV.  I mean every time.

I really recommend this for people who like thrillers but not so much blood and guts or straight up horror.  The thing that gets most people with this film is the psychology involved.  What are Hannibal’s motives?  I know I’ve said in previous posts that I hate when a killer doesn’t have a motive, but I feel like Hannibal did all along (and he did, although I hated Hannibal Rising and never even tried to read the book.)  So I make an exception for this one, and some others, for the sheer weight of good film-making.  Watch this movie, you won’t be sorry.  Now fly little Starling, fly fly fly.

Sorry I haven’t written in awhile, I just got through the process of moving again, so I’m all set up now and ready to write some good ol’ fashioned blogs.

P.S. Thanks for the comment and linking to me, lis, I appreciate having a fan.  Unfortunately, I’m not quite ready for marriage, but I’ll definitely send you a message when I am.

August 6, 2008

Masters of Horror: Dario Argento's Jenifer

I don’t know anyone else who actually watches this show, but basically the concept is to get together a bunch of great horror directors and also some bad ones and some unknowns and give them a terrible budget and tell them to make a good horror short.  Sounds like a great way to produce a film, if you ask me, and the results are never scary and are most often hilarious.  Plus it’s on Showtime so it borders on soft-core porn.  Hats off to you, Showtime.  My sister and I only discovered Masters of Horror when we found we could stream it off of Netflix.  I couldn’t believe there was something horror-related that I had not yet heard of.  And our favorite episode happens to be from the great Italian horror director Dario Argento.  It’s called Jenifer, and oh boy is it swell.

Overall, I think the appeal of a movie like Jenifer is not the fear (because there is none) or the impressive cast (that guy from Wings!), or the sex scenes, although those happen to be some of the funniest parts of the whole show.  I think the real appeal here is expecting fear and getting something completely different.  You almost feel sorry for the director, because he’s being advertised as a “Master of Horror,�? and yet he only has the resources to produce a Tales-from-the-Crypt-style creepshow.  Or maybe even worse than that.  It’s like expecting Michelangelo to make David and only giving him Play Dough to work with.

The story, in and of itself, is actually not bad.  A disappointing and predictable ending, but what can you do?  Man saves girl, girl has hideous, deformed face but sexy body, man leaves wife for ugly/hot girl and they do it several times in his car.  That old fairytale, we’ve all heard it.  But Jenifer’s make-up is so over-the-top ridiculous that you just have to laugh every time you see her.  Especially when she’s clapping, crying, having sex, or eating people’s intestines straight out of their stomachs.  Yes, as you may have guessed, Jenifer is a cannibal and feasts upon the flesh of: a cat, the neighbor girl, a circus ringmaster, and a grocery boy.  It’s hard to say which one was best, but it was a little unnerving to see that the grocery boy was still alive when she started eating him.  The guy from Wings, who inexplicably falls in love with Jenifer, moves away after she eats through the neighborhood and lives in a cabin in the woods with her, presumably brown-bagging her face every night and hoping she doesn’t eat the woodland creatures.  Wings Guy seems mostly bewildered throughout the movie, perhaps just happy he’s getting a paycheck.  And the girl who plays Jenifer, with her fake ugly face and real hot body, isn’t even really that pretty in real life.  Wings Guy has a dream sequence about her with her normal face, and let me tell you, I almost prefer the big horse eyes and gaping mouth.  But maybe I’m just mean.

Basically, this movie could have been decent.  Argento has proven himself to be a talented director, but in this medium, who can blame him for making this terrible tragedy of a film?  I’m sure the budget was awful, and the acting wasn’t any better.  You can’t go by name alone, you have to have a talented writer, good idea, good cast, good budget, etc. in order to make a good horror film, or any film for that matter.  But I suppose if you can't have good horror, you might as well watch the bad horror and make fun of it.

P.S. It’s been pointed out to me that I made a small spelling error, which I have now corrected.  My sincerest apologies, but I never proofread.  I’m too good for it.

August 2, 2008

M. Night Shyamalan

This summer, I decided I would give M. Night Shyamalan yet another chance, so I went to The Happening.  I really, really wanted to like this movie.  I wanted him to prove everyone wrong, that he wasn’t just a one-trick pony, that he could make another good horror/thriller after The Sixth Sense.

Let me just say, The Sixth Sense was a wonderful little gem of a movie, and even though the whole “I see dead people? thing is so played-out it’s annoying, if you go back and watch the movie, it really is great.  Plus Haley Joel Osment is so cute and such a great actor.  Just like Haley Joel’s career, Shyamalan’s talent has gone downhill since then.  After the Sixth Sense, everyone was talking about M. Night, wondering what he was going to do next, he was the great discovery of that year, the next Hitchcock some said.

Then he made Unbreakable.  Now, I know some die-hard Unbreakable fans, and I know I’ve seen this film before, but I honestly could not tell you anything about it.  It was so forgettable that all I remember is Samuel L. Jackson not swearing.  And Bruce Willis is so bland that I don’t even remember what his purpose in the movie was.

That was just a minor hitch though, in the eyes of the public, because I don’t even remember that one having a wide release or anything like that.  I forgave him because I knew from his first endeavor that he could do better.  When I heard about Signs, I was excited beyond excited.  Aliens? Good. M. Night? Good.  Joaquin Phoenix? Hot.  It all came together and sounded like a great movie.  And, say what you will, the first three-fourths was excellent.  He built up a great tension and suspense that really scared me at least.  And then he had to ruin everything by showing that stupid alien full-on and having everything tie together somehow in an implausible twist-ending that left a bad taste in the audience’s mouths.  The whole reason the first part of the movie worked was because everything was unseen, the aliens could be whatever you wanted them to be.  There could be a threat or no threat at all.  And then the fool had to upset the delicate balance of fear and humanity by showing the stupidest-looking alien since E.T.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love E.T. but damn that thing is hideous.)  I still maintain that if he had left the aliens out or maybe put them into the shadows instead of full sunlight, it would have been a much better movie.  However, that being said, I still can’t account for the whole “the aliens can’t stand water!? thing.  I’m sure we’ve all heard the arguments before, so I’ll just briefly list them here: every living being is made up of water, there’s water in the atmosphere, if they’ve been sending scouts for days or weeks or months, you’d think they’d know that the whole damn planet is covered in water. 

And the wife dying in the car accident was stupid too.

I still bought Signs on DVD, I admit it, and I was still excited for The Village.  Until I saw it.  The atmosphere was good, colors, costumes, etc.  The story was ridiculous and the monsters were not real which made me angry, and the ending was an abomination of unholy forces.  I feel very strongly about this, because this movie could have been great.  That’s the thing about M. Night Shyamalan.  He has so much potential that he never lives up to.  Maybe I just expect more of him, but he always seems to prove me wrong with his increasingly terrible films.  He seems to be stuck in this feeling that all we want from him is thrillers with insane twists at the end.  Yeah, that’s what we wanted in the Sixth Sense, but dear God, man, think of something else now.  Well, he kind of did, but…

I refuse to write anything about Lady in the Water because it was such a turd that I can’t even pain myself to remember anything about it.  Worst movie I ever saw for free.  Terrible beyond belief would accurately describe it, I think.

So now I finally come to the Happening.  First impressions:  terrible title, but we’re treading on familiar ground, family traveling cross-country to escape some weird suicide-causing airborne plant disease or something like that.  It’s been done.  The only really inspired scenes were the two bookends, the first scene with everyone in Central Park walking backwards and killing themselves and then the end scene in Paris with “mon vélo? and those crazy Parisians killing themselves.  But then I stop to think and I realize, what ridiculous ways these crazies think of to kill themselves.  Hair-chopstick-thing to the throat?  Lawnmower over the head?  The only credit I give the director is that every time a horrible suicide was about to happen, I would think they won’t show it, it’s too gross, it’s disgusting, oh don’t show that, he won’t do it he won’t he won’t oh God he did it that’s nasty!  So the R rating really helped, although most of the deaths were predictable yet still over-the-top.  I’ll only point out a few more criticisms because this post has gone on far too long and these things have been said before.  But come on, the enemy is air?  How do you outrun the wind?  How do the main characters figure out the cause and no one else does?  A small whole in a jeep lets the virus/whatever in?  Why is Mark Wahlberg so terrible in this movie?  He was great in The Departed.  And why does that wide-eyed zombie of a main actress piss me off so much?  I think the only blessing with this movie is that M. Night only had a voice cameo.  Thank God, because that guy can’t act.

Although I’ve just criticized the man’s life work, I know I’ll be in line for his next thriller too, just to see if he might prove me wrong this time.  And I hope he does.

July 30, 2008

Lost Boys: The Tribe

I’m making good on my promise to review the “long awaited? (but not by me) sequel to the 1987 teen vampire cult classic The Lost Boys.  About half-way into the film, I found myself thinking, "This actually isn't so bad.  Not half as bad as I thought, and it's a step-up from Fright Night II."  And I'm serious too.  Yes, I know, no one wants to trust a direct-to-DVD release (thank God for netflix, or I would have never wasted my time, money, or energy getting this movie.)  But give this one a chance.  Yeah, it was pretty stupid, but really when compared to current horror movies being actually released in theaters, it was up to par or even better.  There were numerous and plentiful references scattered throughout the movie to make the fanboys happy, and since I consider myself a part of that group, I have to say I screamed when the shirtless saxophone player was shone still playing his sax 20 years and 50 pounds later.  Most of the opening shots were exact, some dialogue references were present, and they even had some Emo band redo Cry Little Sister, for some reason.  So I guess I appreciated the filmmakers throwbacks to an earlier era when the Coreys were thin and drug-free and Kiefer Sutherland hadn't yet gotten a DUI, but you can't base an entire movie on nostalgia.  I wish it were that easy, because then I would be a great filmmaker, but it's just not.

I was told that this would be the onscreen reunion of the Coreys, and I was very disappointed in this.  Corey Feldman had about 15 minutes of screentime, and no lie, Corey Haim had about 15 words, at the very end.  A word of warning: Watch through the credits or you'll miss him.  And Jamison Newlander, who plays Alan Frog (I am such a dork, I didn't even have to look that up) is credited but doesn't make an appearance, that I saw anyway.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that "Shane," the lead vampire taking Kiefer "David" Sutherland's place was played by Kiefer's real-life little half-brother, Angus Sutherland.  (I almost just wrote Anus.  And then I laughed.)  Angus was good at first, but then he got kind of stale and old, speaking his lines like he was high on something other than blood.

Corey is again speaking in his patented Frog brother baritone, and he says some of the movies worst one-liners, which include but are not limited to:

"Who ordered the stake?"

"There are a lot of things you can learn from comic books."

And my personal favorite (Oh, God, it's so bad.):

"Pop goes the weasel."

I think that all of those lines would have been 100% better if he had said "bitch" afterwards.

But somewhere between the soft-core porn and huge fake boobs flying all over the place, I realized that this was not really a sequel, but a desperate attempt to rejuvenate not only the Lost Boys name, but vampire movies in general.  No one finds vampires all that interesting anymore.  (And don't give me that Twilight crap, I mean real bloodsuckers who aren't part-time models on the side.)  Vampires have been done to death (forgive me for the pun, seriously, I'm so sorry it had to be this way.)  No one cares about Dracula or Nosferatu or Tom Cruise (I do have a theory that he is a real vampire.  How else does Maverick do such a good job in an Anne Rice movie?  I'm telling you, it happened sometime between Rain Man and A Few Good Men.)

So I guess what I'm trying to say, is that good special effects, teen-based slang, and blood spewing sprinkler-style do not a good movie make.  Sure, I'd watch it again, but I wouldn't watch it as many times as I've seen the first one.  That's embarrassing enough.

One last note: I wrote in an earlier post that I thought it was funny that Corey Feldman said, “Your girlfriend’s a suck-monkey."  Apparently no one else has seen the commercial or the movie, because what he actually says is, "Your sister's a suck-monkey."  I'm kind of glad no one called me out on it.  I would have felt embarrassed and sad.  Either way it was a stupid line, but I would like to personally apologize to Corey Feldman for making fun of him.  I know I've apologized to you before, Feldman, but I'm being sincere this time.

Dead Alive AKA Braindead

This is a movie that is very close to my heart.  Not only is it widely known as the goriest movie of all time (at least it was in 1992), but the gore is so fake it’s funny, and it was one of Peter Jackson’s first films.  That always surprises people, that Peter Jackson used to do sick B movies.  In a way, I wish he would go back to the good old days when no one in the Northern Hemisphere knew who he was, just so he could make some other sick, twisted, tongue-in-cheek gore.  Say what you will about B movies, but damn it if they aren’t more fun.  It’s so easy to laugh at a movie like this, because you know that the filmmakers want you to enjoy it that way.  My sister and I still quote this movie, even though we haven’t actually watched it in years.  But it sticks in my memory more than a lot of more recent films do, because it knows how to make horror fun.  You sit there and kind of think to yourself, “This is depraved and disgusting, but it’s pretty hilarious watching a zombie walk around with a garden gnome in the place where his head used to be.?  I feel a little guilty sometimes that this movie sticks in my mind more than most Oscar winners or depressing period pieces.  But then I remember how funny it is to watch an old woman eat her own ear in a bowl of custard and spit out her earring almost as an afterthought.  And in the end, that’s what helps me sleep at night, knowing that I don’t take my favorite genre too seriously.

I know a lot of people don’t like excessive gore, but how can you not love a movie featuring a zombie woman with a lightbulb in her head or a priest who “kicks ass for the Lord??  That’s just good filmmaking.  Basically it’s Psycho-meets-Night of the Living Dead.  With great New Zealand accents.  And an old woman who eats a cocker spaniel whole.  And the dog’s name is (was?) Fernando.  You can’t make this stuff up.  Sure, you can watch newer movies that focus on realistic blood and guts, but where’s the fun in that?  I hate watching horror movies where the whole thing is death and blood and despair and there’s no way out.  I like my bloody gore to be lighthearted and fun.

But the most iconic thing about this film for me is the Lawnmower Scene.  And yes, this warrants capitalization, it’s proper MLA format.  When the main character Lionel discovers his house is teeming with zombies, he does what any sensible son would do: he pulls out the hand-push lawnmower and starts effing some stuff up.  Peter Jackson makes this scene, and this whole movie really, with this cute sense of glee, like a ten year old boy who has just discovered how to melt G.I. Joe on a stovetop.  He plays his small cameo in much the same way, with a toothy grin and a hyperactive giggle.  I’ve seen this movie maybe 20 times, and it never gets old.  I recommend this one mostly for people who love comedy/horror or anyone who likes to see buckets of blood spurting through each screen.  (And I really do mean buckets, read the trivia page at imdb.  I can’t do all the research for you.)

Another great thing about this film is that after watching it, you start to notice references to it in other Peter Jackson films.  For example, on the boat in King Kong there’s a crate in the background that reads “DANGER: Sumatran Rat Monkey,? which as any Dead Alive fan can tell you, is the cause of the zombie outbreak.  There are also several references in the Lord of the Rings series, certain angles and face shots are very reminiscent of Dead Alive.

So if you like B movie foreign zombie horror (and I know that’s such a large fanbase), this is the movie for you.  Just look for the box featuring the scared woman’s face with a skull coming out of her mouth.  You’ll know what I mean.

P.S. It’s recently come to my attention that it’s a lot more fun for me (and maybe for the hypothetical reader?) to write reviews of bad horror.  I know I tend to gush when it comes to movies I love, so I try to mix it up, good and bad, and not only say the good things.  But I won’t say anything bad about Dead Alive, because this movie is too close to my own personal taste.  Or lack of taste.

July 26, 2008

When A Stranger Calls

I watched this movie last night.  And by “watched? I mean I saw the first half hour and then I fell asleep.  It was okay at first, kind of frightening, and Carol Kane always has a weird charm to her that makes me like her in all her movies.  But I had to ask myself, if someone called me 10+ times asking me, “Have you checked the children?? wouldn’t I actually go check on them?  I mean, that would freak me out and make me immediately go upstairs and check on them.  And even as a babysitter, with or without those damn phone calls, aren’t you supposed to check on the kids anyway?  What a terrible babysitter.  The kids not only were horribly murdered, but what if they got paper cuts or wanted a glass of water?  What if they were crying for their parents or fighting with each other?  That’s just bad babysitting.

The other problem this movie has above all is that everyone has heard this story.  I wasn’t around in 1979, so I couldn’t tell you if this was a popular urban legend even back then, but watching it now, it just doesn’t work.  Everyone knows what happens.  It works better as a story to tell around the campfire than as a horror film.  It’s too simplistic.

So that’s my review of the first half, the half I watched.  Now here’s my sort-of review of the rest.  I saw a bit of the events that occurred after the killer was caught.  So I guess he escaped, went after a very deep-voiced woman, and hid in her closet.  Then I fell asleep and it was a pretty good sleep.  Well, anyway, I kind of felt like it was two separate movies that someone pasted together because they didn’t have enough money to make them both.  It just didn’t make any sense to put the two together.  It made me even sleepier trying to think about it.  So then I fell asleep again.  I’m usually pretty good about not falling asleep during a movie.  I don’t think it’s right to watch the majority of a movie and then puss out about it and turn it off or fall asleep.  But I just really couldn’t watch it.  It was impossible.  It was like watching paint dry or grass grow or some other overused phrases.

So I think I learned a lot from this movie, overall.

1. Don’t leave children alone, because they will probably be murdered by a crazy British man who looks very sheepish and shy but is apparently a demented madman.

2. Well, really I guess all I learned was not to leave kids alone.  I mean really, even if there’s no madman, use some common sense, you dumb bitch.

I vaguely remember seeing the remake which came out in 2006 and they wisely stayed away from the second act that made no sense.  It still was ridiculous and stupid, but at least it made some amount of sense.  Although I suppose in both instances, the killers had no real reason to kill anyone, which as I’ve said before, bothers me.  Yes, I know that real-life killers often have no reason behind their violence, but that’s not interesting in a film.  I want answers, otherwise I would feel tricked and taken advantage of for maybe starting to care about the story or the characters.  What kind of a movie doesn't even have an explanation at the end?

Also, I think I’ll try to rent and review this ridiculous new Lost Boys remake that I didn’t even know was out on DVD on Tuesday.  You gotta love the straight-to-video releases, I suppose.  But it does make me sad.  Lost Boys: The Tribe.  You can’t get a stupider title than that.  Also, Corey Feldman actually says, “Your girlfriend’s a suck-monkey" in the trailer.  I'm sure many men would love a suck-monkey for a girlfriend, so why does Mr. Feldman have to be such a killjoy?

July 24, 2008

One Missed Call

Terrible, just awful. But I knew it would be. Yet again I watched a movie I knew was going to suck and yet again I feel stupider for having watched it. It was a waste of time and film, but not money because I watched it for free.
Americans have some sick fetish with remaking Japanese horror films, and I for one am so sick of it. The Ring did very well and was a decent summer horror flick, but after that it was just this huge onslaught of more and more terrible faux-Japanese horror centered on creepy little kids, bathrooms, hospitals, and technology. Doesn't anyone else find it ridiculous to base a horror film on a ghost calling people through cell phones with messages of their own deaths? It seems like such a waste of time. And the ghost in the damn movie had absolutely no real reason to kill any of the vaguely scared co-ed hotties running around with wide-eyed far-away terror in their eyes. When I say "far-away terror," I guess what I mean is that these characters mean absolutely nothing to me. It's like watching goldfish in a bowl, floating around and blowing bubbles. Sure, it's interesting for a few minutes, but after awhile you just want them to do something so you might have some slight feeling of empathy or affection. But it never comes, because goldfish are stupid and lifeless, which is more than I can say for the actors in this movie.
Basically this movie was a lazy way to tie in Boost Mobile (the highest bidder?), the Japanese home-grown fear of new technology, and a stupid "creepy" ringtone, which I'm sure sold well after the film's release. (My cousin sadistically set another cousin's ringtone to that damn song while they watched the movie in the theater, and then texted her immediately after the movie ended. What a jerk.) And why would you want such an awful product placement anyway? "Buy our products, they kill you!"
What is with this recent fear of technology? The Ring: video tapes. One Missed Call: cell phones. Poltergeist: TVs. Cell: cell phones. I can't be bothered to think of anymore right now, but you get the idea.
Think of some new ideas! Stop stealing everything from J-Horror! Here's a novel idea: how about we think of some new, interesting, original horror! I realize that certain things always scare people and what works can be used again and again, but that doesn't mean you should do it. Whatever happened to thinking up your own ideas? Instead it's always a "reimagining," "remake," or "sequel." (Not sure why that needed quotation marks...) I challenge you, Hollywood, who will never ever read this, to think up something new, something that hasn't been done before. And don't just repackage something the Japanese already made. If you want to give me a Japanese movie, give me the original. I don't want to watch a bunch of super-white, fake-attractive bitches running around in low-cut tank tops until they get brutally murdered for no real reason besides our weird and disturbing pleasure. I can just imagine a bunch of businessmen circle jerking and thinking of new ways to make money, hissing phrases like, "Yesss, let's make a scary cell phone that plays tittering music and kills that girl from A Knight's Tale..." and "How many fake endings do you think we can fit in before people get pissed off?" and "We need more money, let's butcher a good movie and milk it like a starving cow, until its teet dries up and produces only sand."
Well you suck, Hollywood.
I honestly can't even write anymore about this movie tonight. I'm too angry and upset about the downfall of Western Civilization.
I didn't write for awhile because my boyfriend was visiting me for a week. He wouldn't let me go near a computer. He's so needy, he needs attention all the time. Plus he's the only one who reads this damn thing, so it's not like he missed anything.

July 14, 2008


To start off, this movie sucked. I knew this movie would suck. I felt within the very fiber of my being that this movie was going to suck. And yet, like some morbid magnet of death and despair, it drew me into its ridiculous logic and waste of good talent and I couldn't look away. Like a horrible car accident, I had to watch. Also, my sister got it from Netflix because she likes Wes Bentley and I am a loser who has nothing better to do on a Friday night, so I said, well why not.
That was my first mistake.
My second mistake was to continue watching.
Not only was the logic ridiculous (not one person stayed a little later and happened to come down into the parking garage? Whose cars were down there? They only have one security guard for that huge building? No one went to check on the main girl even after she made that weird weepy phone call about how she was "sick?") I could go on and on. And I will. Why is Wes Bentley even in this movie? He is much better than this, he deserves much better than this. Even my sister agreed that he didn't deserve to be in this trash. Is he that desperate? I honestly just felt bad for him the whole time. Every line sounded awkward coming from his mouth. You could actually see his thought process of just wait until you get the check... This movie for me was a tragedy, above all.
It honestly felt like it was written like this:
Writer: I have a great idea, what if that creepy kid from American Beauty kidnapped a girl in a parking garage and did crazy stuff to her for some reason? People love that kind of stuff, blood and torture and boobies! We could combine all of the best stuff from the worst genres and it will be a blockbuster!
And then when they had the basic idea, the other people involved asked:
What about the details? How does this come to happen? Can you give us some more realistic information?
And the writer said:
Oh, don't worry about that, it'll come with time. I took a screen-writing class and this is just how my process works. True genius can't just happen overnight. Believe me, this movie will be a hit! It'll be the next Saw! The next Hostel!
Then the "writer" forgot to write any details and probably thought no one would notice, because the audience would be too busy watching the main character's jugs bounce up and down in fear. In fact, the script includes instructions for the amount of bouncing in each scene, depending on how ridiculous the logic really is.

And woe unto us, the viewer, this horrendous excuse for a horror movie was spawned.

July 10, 2008

Stephen King: Carrie

This is the first in a series of reviews of various Stephen King movies and books. I know a lot of people who don't like Mr. King, and I do understand the reasons behind this dislike. But I guess I enjoy his books and (some of) the movies based on them because he uses such weird ideas and makes them believable. Plus he follows the horror-with-heart method that I love so much.
I also know a lot of people who don't like Carrie because it's "too old" and "that bitch is ugly." Not only do I hate people who dislike a movie just because it's old, I think that older movies are better because they don't rely solely on special-effects and handsome, well-groomed actors. Carrie is a great film because it shows a horror that has some basis for being. I think that Carrie as a character is very easy to relate to. We see in her not only the horror of her powers but also the horror of being a high school student in a world where popularity is the most important quality. It's almost funny in a horrible, I'm-going-to-Hell kind of way, to cheer Carrie on during her rampage, because I honestly don't know one single person who wasn't teased badly in high school. But maybe I just hang out with a bunch of nerds.
I first saw this movie in seventh grade, and I never forgot certain scenes, they always stuck out in my head whenever I thought of true horror. The water hose killing the annoying pseudo-lesbian with the baseball cap. The blood falling and the bucket killing Carrie's prom date. The face of the statue that Carrie prays to. The scissors going into her mother's hand. And of course the little jump at the end. (I won't ruin it for those of you who aren't yet allowed to watch rated R movies. Because I honestly can't think of any other reason to have not seen this movie. Shame on you.)
The scariest things in films are not the horrible, unbeatable, masked serial killers or the beasts and demons that stalk the night. The most horrifying ideas for me are those that are almost understandable in reasoning. I can't watch Carrie without feeling sorry for her, or empathizing a little bit. The audience puts itself in her shoes, they cheer her on because in some sick way, they wish they could do what she does. Not realistically, but in their minds, without acknowledging it, they give in to the darker emotions of human society. But then they remember she just murdered all those people, without batting an eye. That to me is terrifying, because she's just done something so morally insane, yet you can almost see her point-of-view. I sometimes even feel like the bad guys deserved it.
And that's why Carrie is so effective as a horror movie. It makes us face our own aggression and baser human instincts. And we don't always like what we see.

July 2, 2008

The Lost Boys

You know how I said before that I love cheesy 80's vampire movies? Yeah, I meant it.
The Lost Boys holds the crown for the greatest teen vampire flick around, and that's not an opinion, it's a fact. Look it up. I highly recommend this movie, and I've introduced all my friends to it in the hopes that someone else will love horror movies like me. Even though I miserably failed, most of the people I've watched this movie with have at least enjoyed it. Of course we all know the 80's wasn't the best time for fashion, (Exhibit A: Kiefer Sutherland's stringy bleach-blond mullet, Alex Winter's mullet, Corey Haim's "Born to Shop" shirt...), but even in a film with such notable decade-indicators, it's just a great movie. Yes, the dialogue is stupid. Yes, the acting is sometimes questionable. Yes, it was directed by Joel Schumacher. Yes, there is a terrible remake of "People are Strange," and a poster of Jim Morrison with virtually no explanation or mention. But even through all those obstacles, the film has some weird vibe that draws me to it. It has such good intentions, I guess, and as I've said too many times before, it blends comedy, horror, and heart.
What I love most about this movie is that it takes an over-used concept (vampires), and makes it new. Not necessarily plotwise or anything too deep like that. In fact, the more I write about this film, the more I wonder why I like it so much. Is it because I've been told it's a great teen vampire movie? Is this my real opinion or has my upbringing, reading selection, and internet browsing planted a suggestion of greatness about this movie into my unknowing mind? No, that's some stupid 1984 craziness. I like this movie.
I guess what I like most is the pure innocence of this film. For example (and you'll find a similar scene in Fright Night and most other vampire films), when Corey Haim goes to the Frog brothers to ask them about vampires and they give him vampire comics/murder guides to answer all his questions. This always gets me in vampire movies. Who the hell has been living under a rock long enough that they don't know vampires don't like sunlight? That they need to be invited into the house by the rightful owner in order to enter (Is Michael the rightful owner?) That they hate holy water, garlic, mirrors, dogs, etc? Why would anyone need to ask these questions, surely most people have at least seen some version of Dracula? I figure, if you don't know that you should stake a vampire to death, you pretty much deserve to die.
Most laughable 80's moment: the concert that Star and Michael meet at, where a shirtless man wearing leather shorts with a mullet plays a saxophone solo and everyone cheers and rocks out. I'm so glad I wasn't able to form memories yet in the 80's. (Not that the 90's were any better.)
Best Corey moment: When Corey Feldman asks the non-famous Frog brother, "How much do you think we should charge 'em?" after the vampires are all dead. That faux-deep voice gets me every time. He really must have thought he was hot.
Best line: As I previously mentioned, the last line of the movie and the look on Dianne Wiest's, Jason Patric's, and Corey Haim's faces are hilarious. I won't ruin the ending, so watch it yourself to find out. Actually, after talking about it so much, you'll probably watch it and think I hyped it up too much and it wasn't really that funny. Well tough luck, buddy, because I liked it and this is my blog.
Fun Fact: Jason Patric, who plays Michael Emerson, is the son of another great horror and stage actor by the name of Jason Miller. Jason Miller played father Damien Karras in The Exorcist, which I will cover later with much affection. Oh, and Jason Patric's maternal grandfather was Jackie Gleason. Small world, huh?
Possible sequel on the way, according to The Two Coreys. This makes me sad, but I'll probably see it anyway. Let's all hope that in 20 years it will seem just as cheesy and outdated as its predecessor.
Another fun fact I just realized: Jason Patric's character's name is Michael Emerson. This is the real name of the actor who plays Benjamin Linus in Lost, who happens to be my favorite character. I'll cover Michael Emerson later, in my discussion of the Saw series.

June 30, 2008

Fright Night

I cannot stress this enough: I love 80's teen vampire movies. Yes, they are cheesy as can be, but what's life without a little humor? Who says horror has to take itself seriously? In fact, I argue that horror should not take itself seriously because there is a very fine line between horror and comedy, and to walk this line is to make a truly fine horror story. When you take the emotion and the humanity out of fear, it becomes despair. There are so many modern horror films that take out the real challenge, because the main characters have no escape, they aren't being punished for past deeds, they just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Everyone loves to be frightened (admit it), but when you can't relate to a story or its characters, what's the fun in that? Where's the real, true fear?
Maybe I included this little comparison in the wrong review, because Fright Night is absolutely not frightening. At all. But it does contain quite a bit of comedy, some of it intentional. The 80's were such a carefree time for horror, because it wasn't all about amazing special effects. (Hell, it couldn't be, they didn't have them.) So they used what they had: Roddy McDowall, a puppet left over from Ghostbusters, and a great send-up of the classic Hammer films and Vincent Price. The best thing about this movie is its heart, the way it shows the nerdy outcast main character Charley Brewster as a sort of hero, but also kind of an idiot. The way it showcases a powder-wigged Roddy McDowall as a lovable, yet selfish failing horror actor. And the way it tries to make you believe (it was a good try, too) that Chris Sarandon is a sexy vampire.
You might be getting the wrong impression of me with this review, so let me clear up a few things. I'm sure when you think of horror fans, especially vampire fans, you think of some greasy haired goth girl who wants to be a vampire and makes up a silly name for herself and writes on and keeps a blog (okay, so I do keep a blog, but still...), and says big words to confuse people. But I'm not like that at all! Actually, I'm fairly normal for having been raised on such inappropriate movies. I never had any problems in school, no nightmares, I have friends, I have a boyfriend, etc. I just happen to have a little side interest that involves gore, blood, and the smell of fear.
While Fright Night is not the king of the 80's teen vampire flick (that honor goes to The Lost Boys, if only for the Coreys and the best ending line I've heard in a long time), it is an essential part of a horror fan's collection, because it showcases what a horror film should strive for (but in much smaller doses): emotion, humor, intelligence, and heart.

June 28, 2008

A Nightmare on Elm Street

I'm doing a bit of a backtrack today, to show my taste in horror movies. I know this movie came out in 1984, but that doesn't mean it's not a great horror gem. Plus it provided us with a super-sexy Johnny Depp, who people seem to forget stars as the unable-to-stay-awake boyfriend. He also proves that even with a gruesome and memorable death scene, Johnny can still be incredibly sexy.
Let me just start off by saying, I love this movie. I really, really love it. I think I've seen it 20+ times, and it's the first old school horror movie I suggest when people want to watch a slasher. This movie is what all supernatural slasher flicks try to emulate. Not only is Freddy Krueger genuinely frightening, but he has a sense of humor on top of it all. Although this seemed to be his downfall in the sequels ("Welcome to prime time, bitch."), in the first movie, it really worked ("I'm your boyfriend now, Nancy!") Yes, most of my generation will not appreciate this movie because, I know, the effects are seriously dated, and the acting is truly atrocious, but the concept is just too good to pass up. A killer who gets you in your dreams? It's brilliant, because everybody sleeps, therefore there is no escape from Freddy.
Some of the scenes are just brilliantly done. A few of my favorites:
Tina showing up in a body bag during English class, with Nancy following her into the hallway. The hall monitor dressed in Freddy's sweater is so scary, and Heather Langenkamp saying "Screw your hall pass!" is so stupid, that it's possibly my favorite scene of the movie.
The infamous and classic bath tub scene. This still scares me. The sexual connotations and bottomless bathtub are so perfect, and I think they really show the true terror of the movie.
The fact that Nancy always calls her mom "Moth-er." Always gets me.
Tina's death, and her boyfriend reaching ridiculously to the ceiling and yelling, "Nooooooooo!" He's such an idiot.
I know it's stupid to review a movie that's been out for over 20 years, but it holds such a special place in my heart as a great genre-starter and wonderful Friday night date movie. (I know, I'm weird.)
The thing I love the most about this film is that you can see its influence on many, many horror movies and how the style has changed since it came out. But honestly, I could watch this movie a hundred times and not get bored with it.
In conclusion, if you haven't seen it, please do. And if you have, see it again.

June 26, 2008

The Strangers

Don’t give me crap for going to this, I expected it to be bad. But my sister- who will watch any movie and love it- wanted to go, and I decided that once in my life I should be a good sibling and spend time with my little baby sis.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have seen a lot of terrible horror movies. Thousands upon thousands, in fact. I think they must actually have a quota of terrible horror movies they have to make each year because they know stupid teens will go to slasher flicks just to see hot sluts get killed at a summer camp. And this time I find myself among these stupid teens (although I myself am not in my teens...)
Besides giving you the stupid parts (I know you can't wait), I will at least be fair and give you what I liked about the movie. So here goes: Um...Liv Tyler is pretty, I guess. And... Well I'm sure there were other things about the movie that didn't totally suck.
And now to the main argument for the crappiness of this movie, and the downfall of the horror genre and Western civilization as a whole.
I guess I can understand why in the 70's and 80's, slasher movies were really scary and had some sort of real relevance and true fear. Ever since Psycho, the idea of a strange, creepy villain who randomly kills twenty-somethings has fascinated the general public and presented a good argument for abstinence, since everyone knows the virgin always survives. And I love (some) slashers, such as Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, etc. But how many different ways can people be killed for no reason at all? And really, think about it: what reason do any of these slashers have to kill people? I mean, Freddy Krueger was getting revenge for being burned to death, but what was his excuse in the sequels? Just for giggles? And why did Michael Myers keep killing even after he got rid of all his family members?
This is why people hate horror movies. As I sat watching this movie, the only thing I could think of was: what is their motivation? Why are these random, apparently angry young killers even bothering with such a ridiculous plot? I mean seriously, if you can give me an explanation for any of the events of this movie, please, for the love of all that is good, tell me. I just don't understand how you can make a movie with no plot. And it's not like the boyfriend couldn't have taken that guy with the bag on his head and those too bitches with stupid masks. He had a GUN. I don't know much, but I do know that guns beat knives. And honestly, there are just so many questions I can think of, I don't even want to bother. We aren't even rewarded with a glimpse of their faces for sitting through this crap.
The filmmakers then feel the need to show some young Mormon boys discover the apparently dead body of Arwen. Oh, and the killers get away and say, "It'll be easier next time." Yeah. No. It will never get any easier to sit through this crap.
People, if we keep going to these films, they will keep making them. I know, it's a hard concept to understand, but stay with me here. This is an evil that needs to be stopped. I know, I know, I know they are planning a sequel for this piece of overblown crap, but don't see it! I'm begging you. Because the more crappy horror movies they make, the less good ones. I'm so sick of watching awful films like The Grudge, the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Freddy Vs. Jason, or whatever the hell else they've been churning out over the past few years.
So yeah, in conclusion, don't see this movie.

June 25, 2008

We all go a little crazy sometimes, haven't you?

Another set-up and explanation: My one and only true love in this life, the thing I turn to any time I have a problem, I need entertainment, or I need something to do, is horror movies. This is one thing I can't stress enough: I am absolutely enamored with horror movies. Do I have a problem? Yes. Do I mind? Absolutely not.
Since 5th grade, when I first accidentally watched The Shining (which undoubtedly scarred me for life), I have loved the very idea of a scary movie. Every birthday party since that time has been devoted to pizza, gossip, and scary movies. At my 6th grade party, we watched The Blair Witch Project. 7th grade: Carrie and Friday the 13th. 8th grade: A Nightmare on Elm Street. And on and on.
I've seen all (or most of) the classics, I have seen The Exorcist 20+ times, and I have actually written a ten page literary criticism of feminism in classic horror. So I guess you could say I'm a nerd.
I don't know what it is, but the idea of being scared has always appealed to me. But I guess in other ways it has really made life harder. For example, I sleep with the hallway light on. I can't go camping or boating without thinking of Jason Voorhees. My sister is pregnant and I think of Rosemary and her evil baby. I've had dreams about Freddy Krueger. But however scared I get, I seriously can't stay away from the horror section. I've watched so many of the damn movies that I've had to move on to foreign horror just to find something I can watch. So here are some suggestions I have for anyone who may not love horror the way that I do. In no particular order: The Exorcist, The Evil Dead Trilogy, Dead Alive, The Host, The Descent, any incarnation of Dracula, The Lost Boys, Fright Night, The Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, Shaun of the Dead. Okay so I cheated, some of them are horror comedies (figure out which ones!), which I also love. But still, I love blood and gore, etc. I can't think of half the movies I've watched, and honestly I've seen a lot a bad horror. To really love scary movies, you must wade through the swamps of terrible schlock and shock-and-awe murder-a-thons to find a true gem of horror, like The Sixth Sense or the original (yet hilarious) Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Some may disagree with my opinions of horror and say I don't understand it, but they aren't reading this blog, so really, who cares?
Over the course of this blog, I would like to offer my own perspective on a few horror movies, new and old, and where I think the horror genre is moving in the future. So enjoy!