Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Evil



Approaching the new year of 2013 and saying goodbye to a so-so 2012, I thought why not welcome it in with a viewing of New Years Evil (1980), an early slasher that isn’t particularly graphic as customary with the genre, but it has various novelties that might interest fans of the decade anyway. A psychopath, with a peculiar interest in a self-absorbed, success-obsessed radio host hoping her New Years punk rock bash can draw media credibility and television stardom, forewarns her that he will kill people and eventually her. Kip Niven is the handsome, charming wack-job, who uses phone booths and a mechanized sound device to hide his real voice, calling “Blaze” (real name, Susan Sullivan (Roz Kelly)) off and on before and after murders, heading into the New Year of different time zones as the clock strikes 12 Midnight.

**

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Big Surprise--Night Gallery (1971)

Night Call



Mrs. Elva Keene, a grumpy (mainly because she’s...), lonely, handicapped, elderly woman, confined to a wheelchair, is getting eerie phone calls from a moaning, sorrowful voice groaning out, “Hello…helloooooo…” Badgering the phone company for answers, informed that the storm has downed many lines, by the operator who mentions that it could be a bad, faulty connection (before learning from Keene that there’s actually someone’s voice on the other line), Keene becomes increasingly agitated, worried, and frightened by the calls, wanting to know the person tormenting her with these repeated efforts to (maybe) contact her.

****

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Walking Dead-And so it begins..

Days Gone Bye


It was about five or so minutes into the show and I already knew I’d have problems with this series. Rick, still in his deputy uniform, shoots a little zombie girl right in the head and it is shown in explicit detail, in slow motion even, crashing to the asphalt, and I come to respect George Romero even more for not lowering himself to such a degree. Sure, he thought it free to just have a stupid biker get his guts ripped from his torso in Dawn of the Dead, but we never see two zombie kids (or the nun; although, I think some of my friends on the imdb would welcome this…) eat lead when Ken Foree has to defend himself. Many love child violence, I realize this, and will applaud the decision to commit blunt force trauma right out of the gate, speaking aloud, “We are willing to go here, hahaha.”
***













Look, I know people are head over heels for Frank Darabont. I think a lot of his output deals a heavy hand, like the ending of The Mist (or the character played by Marcia Gaye Hardin, for that matter), but he seems to have a conviction in building characters and epic moments with music lifted to optimum effect (he has this “Steven Spielberg method” to his work that stands out to me, wanting to provoke emotional responses with themes, dialogue, and performance, persuasively motivated by music) and through his camerawork (Tim Robbins opening his arms as if wings and facing the heavens as rain pours in The Shawshank Redemption, such an example). Actually, speaking of that shot in Shawshank, there’s a similarly employed visual as the camera pulls up as Rick is starting to slip into unconsciousness, having been shot by a drug dealer.






..skin gave off a heat like a furnace.

While most fans are knee deep into the series now, I kind of like the fact that I’m late to the party. From what I’ve read, some consider the show great while others lament of its current woes in storytelling and character development. Whatever the case, I like the idea of being really behind. I always find it rather comforting, even though I didn’t like the murder of the zombie girl (I realize I’m in the minority, but it’s a personal thing...), that there’s at least a respect for keeping some traditions of the zombie genre in place regarding the “damage to the brain kills them” aspect. Some might have wished there was some change from the formula, but I just feel that if you are to craft a tale of the undead, keep some part of what gave birth to the genre in place.




..if you pull the trigger you have to mean it.



What I enjoyed about this episode, Days Gone Bye, was the idea to keep the story localized to basically three characters. I prefer actually for a monumental cataclysmic societal collapse to be visualized (at the beginning) in increments, not like, say, Zombie Apocalypse, which spells out what happened in opening narratives and captions, instead of building stories bit by bit. I like the initial approach here. I actually noticed the “Compendium” of the Walking Dead (the first volume) at Walmart, had some time to kill while waiting on some medication to be filled for my son, and read the opening pages of the graphic novel. I liked how the comic built the story from the beginning. I hadn’t followed the comic, so I’m not one of those who insist that the television show abide by its structure completely, but I did like the strategy of the written/artistic form from what I had a chance to follow. If I wasn’t the sole breadwinner and had some cash to burn, I would have shelled out the $40 needed to purchase it. It would be cool to read both the comic and then the early episodes to see how they differ over a period of time.



I noticed what Darabont was going for in the first episode after just the first conversation between police deputies, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and partner, Shane (Jon Bernthal) about Rick’s difficulty with his wife and how she can say cruel things around their son, questioning his fatherly abilities. It is the attempt to establish the characters and what is going on in the lives of those characters focused on. This scene wasn’t at all mentioned in the comic portion I read. Actually, the police shootout with hoods is very minor; the emphasis on Rick’s awakening to a world in ruin is of importance.





We see towards the end that Shane and Rick’s wife (Sarah Wayne Callies) are lovers, concealed from the Grimes’ son, Carl (Chandler Riggs). Conflict as such indicates that Walking Dead will veer into melodrama from time to time. Maybe they thought Rick was dead, although Shane was visiting him and then all of a sudden stopped, perhaps because “the world went to hell”. All of you probably know this already, but I will venture to guess that he’s maybe not as noble as once perceived at the onset.


I loved the major storyline going in the episode, even if it’s a “one-off” with the father-son characters, Morgan and Duane Jones (Lennie James and Adrian Kali Turner); the comic placed an importance in their building relationship with Rick. Trust is earned once confirmed that the flesh wound Rick has is a gunshot not a zombie bite. The three seem destined to travel the road together, but different agendas derail this potential team. What the Jones duo does is service the plot as information for Rick, cluing him in on what took place while he’s “under”. All that hell that broke loose is shown to us in disturbing detail (I think a solid presentation of the aftermath can do wonders at establishing the horror that lies in wait for the lead heroic character), bodies and blood and damaged structures give us a lot of detail on the bad shit that went down.










Regarding the Jones, a bit of melodrama further included in Days Gone Bye, showing us that there's plenty of moments where characters mourn the tragedy of the catastrophe that laid the world to waste (well, America, anyway.) and took family members, friends, and just people they once knew (including a deputy who was a bit of an imbecile that Rick "puts down") has the father and son having to deal with the loss of their maternal presence, the mom/wife. Morgan just can't kill her; he tries so hard at the end to finally take her out and just can't do it. And, of course, we see right away that Rick is sympathetic to one rotted zombie, absent legs, crawling across the lush green of a park, putting a bullet in her eye, dropping it immediately on impact. One thing's for certain: Darabont isn't shy about showing gun shots to the heads of zombies, no matter how sympathetic he paints them. The CGI violence definitely had me clamoring for the make-up mastery prevalent in Day of the Dead.







When Rick rides into Atlanta on a horse he found, I thought back to Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters as the undead walk towards New York City. I just wonder how Fulci would have felt seeing how enabled the show’s production was in having a complete city and the budget available to them to create such a visual dynamo as an army of the undead crowd streets and blocks, tearing into the horse, hurriedly chasing Rick (the tank was an amusing refuge, I thought). Darabont was given an opportunity so many low budget zombie gutmuncher flicks could only dream of. He certainly makes the most of having the city location, desolate except for the horde infesting every block (including a devastated bus; a cool visual as Rick, on horseback, steadily passes by), and gets happy once again with the eagle-eye view from the sky, rather a bleak portrait of the downfall of what was once called society. Anytime a city is filled to the gills with the walking dead and we get a full view of how it is now their domain, I'll cop to being impressed. I still will have a wait-and-see approach to the series' prolonged storytelling...

 

Horror High



The tormented shy brain, Vernon Potts. A polite, unassuming, eyes-to-the-floor student who is of constant ridicule, mistreatment, bullying, classless punishment at his school. The literature teacher decides to give him an F on a report of Robert Louis Stevenson because he accidentally turned in a Biology report he spent the Summer working on (his passion is Biology/Chemistry; she believed he needed to give as much dedication to her class as the others; she is a control-bitch who wields the power at her disposal towards “the unruly” or anyone else that might not quite satisfy her need for total devotion to their studies and the high standards of proper behavior in class), the janitor gets angry because he shoos away a cat trying to get at his pet project guinea pig, and then, not to be left out, you have the major antagonist, Roger, the cruel fellow student (dating Vernon’s desired girl-of-choice, Robin (played by the adorable Rosie Holotik), a bubbly, easily-approachable, and earnestly sociable student at his school and his only true friend) who nicknamed Vernon, “The Creeper”.
**½

The Grave



Yes, sir. That’s the end of that.

The Grave. My favorite Twilight Zone episode. I haven’t the foggiest notion why it doesn’t turn up on a lot of top 5’s in Twilight Zone fans’ lists of favorites episodes. This, my friends, never fails not to deliver the goosebumps. There are just certain episodes of this classic series that leave an indelible mark on me never to leave. The Grave, in my opinion, should work its spell best around Midnight, the dark, the pouring rain, all alone to yourself. Sit and watch it. You can thank me later.
*****
Day of the Dead (1985)
I've got three reviews and my internet connection is shit, and early this morning I watched Walking Dead, the first episode, and I couldn't help but think of Day of the Dead for whatever reason. It seems like Day of the Dead echoed throughout that first episode. I live where there isn't a broadband tower so what I do have, through Hughes Net, for what I can afford, isn't what I'd prefer, but anyway, Soap box and all, but maybe eventually I can get my three reviews in the can, on the blog and move on to Day of the Dead which will be an exhausting undertaking, considering how much I have loved to write about it in the past. I still need to add finishing touches to Days Gone Bye, with a Twilight Zone episode almost done, and Horror High also basically done, so maybe Day of the Dead will rear its head eventually.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Death Valley

I can just imagine slasher fans turning Death Valley on having heard of its existence and the peculiar stars that aren’t typical of this subgenre (Paul LeMat hadn’t starred in The Puppetmaster, yet), particularly little Peter Billingsley of A Christmas Story (prior to this major part that would forever link his face to the holiday season and in the hearts of audiences time immemorial). That little fellow with his father (The Lost Boy’s Edward Herrmann) in New York (pops is a professor at Princeton), not wanting to go to Death Valley, Arizona, to meet his mother’s new beau. How cutesy it is, set to made-for-television family drama music, Death Valley doesn’t pass the slasher scent that seems to stink the nostrils of haters and work as a sweet savour of favorable aroma to fans of the genre. Catherine Hicks of 7th Heaven and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the mother, LeMat is the potential stepdad Billingsley has problems connecting to, because Daddy is the kid’s whole world.
 **

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Death Ship




 Picture of the spaceship E-89, cruising about the thirteenth planet of star system fifty-one, the year 1997. In a little while, supposedly, the ship will be landed and specimens taken, vegetable, mineral and, if any, animal. These will be brought back to an overpopulated Earth, where technicians will evaluate them and, if everything is satisfactory, stamp their findings with the word 'inhabitable' and open up yet another planet for colonization. These are the things that are supposed to happen. Picture of the crew of the spaceship E-89: Captain Ross, Lieutenant Mason, Lieutenant Carter. Three men who have just reached a place which is as far from home as they will ever be. Three men who, in a matter of minutes, will be plunged into the darkest nightmare reaches of the Twilight Zone.


 In Tribute to Jack Klugman
That was us in there…we’re dead!                                                                                          ****

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

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--Alone in the Dark (1982)

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The Boogens - Intro

While I must admit that as a monster movie, The Boogens (1981) doesn’t quite measure up (its monsters aren’t particularly menacing ...