Monday, October 31, 2016

Watching Halloween (1978) later tonight, gosh LA looks a lush green! I wish I didn't read trivia or watch docs. Kind of can have you seeing things as they really are instead of what is intended to be. Maybe they should have just picked a California town instead?

Haddonfield Night


Granted, watching these Halloween movies is not recommended for anyone of us who have them in original form on AMC. Commercials interrupting during key scenes, abruptions that are jarring and annoying. I just do it because this is a lazy day for me where I don't care all that much. That said, I really like the opening of Halloween II (1981) where Michael is on the loose through the Haddonfield neighborhoods as police look for his whereabouts, while kids are still out and about. Very active and alive is the cinematography and Cundy is a godsend to director Rosenthal. The hospital is too empty and right the opposite of the neighborhoods. Plus it is implausible not to think armed law enforcement wouldn't be posted at Laurie's room or available as protection.

It's Halloween Again


I took the day off and just kind of taking it easy as the Halloween films are ongoing thanks to AMC Fear Fest marathon, as they are on rotation. I'll go to my Blu to legit watch the original tonight probably. I can say at 39, my fondest memory of Halloween (1978) was a Halloween night when I was a kid after trick or treating, getting a chance to hang out afterwards at my grandmother's house where my cousin once lived, arriving to his room where the film was on HBO. I almost want to say it was around 87 or 88. I can't be too sure on the exact time, but it was late 80s. Maybe a bit earlier perhaps. It was an awesome time to be alive, as cable and VHS were taking shape and I was at the right influential age, this was on at exactly when it needed to be. Loomis prowling the streets for Michael, Laurie trying to defend herself against the boogeyman, and Carpenter's score pressing all the right buttons, I knew as a youth this would be a lifelong relationship. It's cool I'm not alone.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Challis, Can't Keep a Good Doc Down

I was over at the movie message board for Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) while watching it on AMC (it was on and I was too lazy to get my barebones Universal Studios DVD copy of it out so I compromised), and one of the posts dropped a link to the YouTube Disco edit of The Magic Pumpkin.


I think the soundtrack, Dean Cundy's cinematography, Atkins in the lead, and O'Herily as a game sinister villain truly rescue the film from some dopey makeup effects, the Stonehenge connection, and a ton of logic problems (why wouldn't Robot Ellie just kill Challis before ever infiltrating the communication epicenter of her inventor and how come Challis' interference that destroys so much equipment not stop the signal from going out over the airwaves???). Go over to the H3 message board for some amusing logic questions...there are plenty. But the score is pervasive and often quite aurally aesthetically pleasing. It functions in harmony with Cundy's work. It looks and sounds great. Nice plug for Halloween (1978) in there and the ending doesn't give us the phew ending we want. Challis has his character flaws, especially concerning his children, but somehow he keeps driving towards stopping Cochran, even if he might fail.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

I don't even really want to waste much of my brain power on it, but Night Before Halloween, which debuted on syfy tonight, went back to the body count curse route. A "curse of the flies" based off a prank sets off on Bailee Madison (of Are You Afraid of the Dark (2010)) and her Hugh school friends. This prank left a girl in a coma while the initial initiator of it eventually dies anyway. The common special effect is a swarm of flies moving about actively pursuing Madison and her friends (using "friends" loosely since most of them turn on each other), while each tries to stay ahead of them and alive. One must die before Halloween strikes so the others live. Kids die, the police are involved, and the flies form various shapes like a snake, extended arms, and this line that swarm towards intended victims. The CGI flies are the film's featured villain, and that sinks this Halloween Eve curse hands outing. The young cast spend their time trying to figure out how to upend the flies and their curse, with the ugly side of survival emerging when friendship means less than continuing to breathe. Nicely shot, at least. The flies are funny, not scary. Bailee reveals a side of her that is at least an interesting wrinkle on the usual final girl innocent...involving a suicide pact that isn't followed through. But the monster of the film isn't about to haunt your mind or produce nightmares afterward.
It's been an okay October. No great shakes. Many films were set aside for the month that returned to their cubby hole. By the 20th, the dog days set in and I could hardly crack one movie a night. That said, some favorites still made the month while many others that often do just didn't. Every year can't be 2012, the best the blog has ever seen in October. I hope to marathon the final day and break from horror a few days. Cleanse the palate a bit. But not much.

Hood of Horror



Snoop Dogg’s “Hood of Horror” is actually a rather nice surprise. Gritty settings with mostly African-American actors, this urban horror anthology offers some rather unpredictable and inventive storytelling, tackling societal issues and the like. Snoop Dogg is the MC, an emissary for the devil after he offered his life for his sister’s (the opening credits are in animated form where Dogg is a gangster firing off rounds at an adversary, hitting his sister by accident, cursed by his mother as evil, and eventually offered a reprieve by a demon looking to recruit him), setting up each tale, often even taking part. Snoop Dogg has always been a cool cat with plenty of charisma to spare, so him being a type of horror anthology host wouldn’t stress him none.

**½


The first tale deals with a very angry graffiti artist who saw her father kill her mother during a domestic dispute then turn the gun on himself. She has utter hatred for gangsters, associating those she meets on the streets with her [dead] old man. Aggressively hostile and vocal towards a trio of graffiti hoods, she antagonizes them into pursuing her, but she fortunately evades them…right into the company of Danny Trejo’s demon. Trejo tattoos her arm, providing her the power to X through the painted stylized names of artists who graffiti the walls of the streets she calls home which results in their deaths. As she X kills more and more gangsters, the community mourns the loss of youths, and Trejo soon introduces her to a few of her undead victims. A mural she was supposed to paint for community outreach eventually is finished…with her own flesh and blood as she literally paints it red!

The second tale deals with the lecherous son of a military colonel (it is revealed in a flashback memory that the son run through his father with his car, the bull horn ornament impaling him!) and his greedy bimbo, fake-boobed wife having to stay at the apartment duplex with four retired soldiers who served with his pops. The soldiers (including Ernie Hudson and Richard Gant) tolerate their disorderly conduct (they want the upper floor to themselves, including carpentry renovations by the soldiers on minimum wage salaries, and cut back on food and services, even insisting on paying back supposed extra financial benefit provided by their dead colonel) as this is to be a year-long living arrangement due to a clause in the colonel’s will that his boy learn integrity and honor from those he served closely with in the war. Instead, one of the soldiers dies because he didn’t get medical care needed and a nurse that visits daily and helps them by cooking meals and tending to housework is accosted during intended foreplay she resists and suffocated with a pillow. This sets the soldiers off and their mistreatment is visited upon the two who took advantage of and victimized them.

The third tale has a rapper betraying his musically talented partner and best friend when he feels the need to be a solo act. Through a staged robbery, the rapper’s bodyguard pretends to be a hood, shooting the partner in a convenience store. Soon the spirit of that friend returns to visit the rapper, setting the stage for a murder and shootout that is quite unexpected.

The first tale, “Crossed Out”, doesn’t have very much humor. Daniella Alonso is intense and full of venom as the loner who wants to press her foot on the throat of gangsters who symbolize her father. The memory of that horrible day as a child never leaves her. And the gangsters she particularly targets aren’t the most sympathetic, so when Alonso does start X’ing them out, I can’t imagine a lot of teary eyes for these “dearly departed”. A gun going off in a victim’s pants as he is trying to unzip his fly so that a girl he just slapped to the floor would blow him, slipping on booze-puddled sidewalk another victim falls mouth-first on a bottle, impaling him through his skull (!), and a phone booth visit results in a third victim being strangled by a phone cord (seeing is believing) are the violent highlights. Of course Alonso’s eye is peeled off a wall by Snoop so there’s that. Billy Dee Williams, as a community leader, guess stars.

“The Scumlord” has a game Anson Mount as the heel, Tex Woods, Jr. Hudson is the main voice for his soldiers, often questioning futilely Mount’s demands and misbehavior. Mount sinks his teeth into the amoral asshole, while Brande Roderick as Mount’s bleach-blonde, collagen-lipped squeeze is perfectly loathsome, so involved in spoiling her little dog while the soldiers starve downstairs. The use of caviar and a vacuum cleaner must be seen to be believed…included in this set piece is bloating and flatulence. Yes, it is that kind of tale. Sydney Poitier (Sidney Poitier’s daughter) guest stars as the nurse who combatively addresses Mount about his rotten treatment of those in the building he occupies.

“Rapsody Askew” features Pooch Hall as the self-absorbed rapper only out for himself, while his bro, Aries Spears, tries to make their partnership a success. Diamond Dallas Page is Hall’s agreeable bodyguard who is willing to shoot Spears, while costumed as a robber, so that Hall can step out of the shadow of his best friend. Loyal to a fault, Spears could have went solo but put the friendship over his own self interests. Well, Spears, in the form of a demon whose disfigured face is a reminder of the gunshot wound to the forehead, visits Hall to torment him, payback for the betrayal. This results in a DOA DDP and Hall framed for his murder by Spears, with the cops, guns blazing, and a trip to hell following suit. Lin Shaye, as a demon who forces Hall to revisit his horrid actions towards Spears, and Jason Alexander (of Seinfeld), as a record exec offering Hall and Spears a rap album opportunity, guest star.

Snoop has a dwarf demon tagalong who likes to vomit (yeah) and two babes with vampire teeth often by his side while he spins rap to each tale, explaining them in his own unique way. The animated sequences aren’t too shabby. As you might expect, the language is vulgar at times and there’s lots of grit and attitude. Still, this was shot with energy and flair, moving each plot along without much fat left on the bone. This might be a good companion to the superior Tales from the Hood.

Friday, October 28, 2016

He Doesn't Drink...Wine


Walpurgis Night is mentioned in a stagecoach, the night of evil. Superstition is how Renfield sees that, but he'll learn soon enough. The film for me is not just the iconic presence of Lugosi, the great, but for Dwight Frye. There's a scene where poor lunatic Renfield sobs in his sanitarium cell, wanting to be fed, stranded by his master until needed. His eyes are white and wide, practically all that can be seen in his darkened cell. Dracula summons him, Mina is to be a vampire bride. Renfield mentions that God wouldn't damn his soul, a poor victim of the bite. Mina might be the prize for the count but Renfield is the tragic character that isn't as lucky as her to have the luxury of being spared by Van Helsing's stake. I reckon the Castle Dracula scene between Dracula and Renfield is my all-time favorite Gothic horror scene. The introduction of Dracula and Renfield responding to what he experienced continues annually to be a treasure for me personally. I love the Dracula and Van Helsing encounters, while I do admit that Chandler and Manners are handsome charisma vacuums. They serve as vanilla leads who probably had contracts pushing them into the film while Lugosi, Frye, and Van Sloan just bring it. While they might appear typecast, these three are seen over and over again, remembered and admired while Chandler and Manners probably happily took any film besides the dreaded horror (Manners, unfortunately, would show up in such classics as The Mummy & The Black Cat) and those roles are lost to lack of interest. Bully to horror! It doesn't die!

A red mist spread over the lawn, coming on like a flame of fire! And then he parted it, and I could see that there were thousands of rats, with their eyes blazing red,l ike his, only smaller. Then he held up his hand, and they all stopped, and I thought he seemed to be saying: "Rats! Rats! Rats! Thousands! Millions of them! All red-blood! All these will I give you! If you will obey me!"



Thursday, October 27, 2016

Ju-on (2003)


***½


Rika is saddled with a case (welfare volunteer) that results in her visiting a cursed home where a husband went berserk on his wife, son, and the pet cat. Like an infection that spreads, it isn’t in your best interest to wind up at a cursed place…those fallen to the curse often return to those still living. Rika goes to check on Ms. Sachie for the Social Welfare Office, seeing that this elderly woman is quite worse for wear…something has rendered her a lost mute drained of personality, a shell with little life or awareness of time and place, it seems. The house is in ruins, in tatters, as if a heavy wind ripped through it, with Rika having to do clean up while Sachie remains gone within her own mind.

What I like about the opening minutes is that director Shimizu establishes something bad lives in this place, and Rika arrives in its aftermath…so what will she herself encounter? What happened here? Just a few quick snippets of the family massacre are hinted at in just brief glimpses…Shimizu will give you just enough to recognize that a man, with a box cutter, grabs the cat, has a woman (obviously the wife) lying with dead eyes presumably in a bathtub, and the son scurrying towards the sound of the cat screeching.

Those who know The Grudge are familiar with the cat, the boy, and the mother. They are specters that remind us (and those who happen upon them unfortunately) of how those without rest have a way of not staying dead. Typically those who meet them don’t fare well afterward.

Rika notices a closet taped shut. She removes the tape. Not particularly wise. Later, she heads back downstairs to ask Sachie why the closet was taped. Soon they booth encounter, black as ash, Toshio’s (the boy) mother…

Kazumi is home with Ms. Sachie (who is “sleeping a lot these days”), her hubby’s mother (he is off to work while she stays behind to tend to mommy), and there’s mention of the sister, Hitomi. Hinted at when Rika hears a telephone call just a bit earlier in the film, there’s a time shift from the present to the past. Aftermath tells us someone (or something) caused quite a chaotic mess in the cursed home when Rika arrived. Now in the middle of the film (or second chapter), we are about to see just what that might be. A glimpse into the psyche of the father who killed his son, cat, and wife surfacing inside Kazumi’s husband, while she finds herself unable to move, as if exiled within her body, paralyzed by the curse in the house. Toshio and Kayako imprint themselves periodically in different areas of the place they called home. The man who put him there has left his madness also imprinted inside the building, like a bad infestation that captures its own host, Kazumi’s husband (Ms. Sachie’s son; Hitomi’s brother).

Hitomi is pushed out of the house by her brother, Katsuya, perplexed at his bizarre behavior, as the rain intensifies. The film decides to follow Hitomi after she’s sent away by her brother, leaving her work and going home. Encountering the mother and son ghouls briefly in her work building, Hitomi isn’t about to wait around for them to come get her. But since she’s *been inside* her brother’s cursed home, she’s got the imprint and so her fate was sealed as a result. The film gets clever during this point in the film. Not only does Hitomi speak to her brother on the phone, but at her door, through the peephole, there is waiting on her to open it! These ruses could be questioned logically, but, then again, the whole film leaves its share of questions. Like when Hitomi hides in her covers in her bedroom as the television distorts its shape, and you hear that droning echo of dread; Kayako emerges under the covers, pulls Hitomi towards her, and Hitomi’s body vanishes…to where? Where would Kayako take her?





















Nakagawa, the detective assigned the case inside the cursed home, arrived after caseworker, Hirohashi, called law enforcement due to finding Rika in shock and Ms. Sachie dead. Later Hirohashi himself is found frozen in fear, dead. Toyama was the detective assigned to the Takeo and Kayako case which started the whole curse inside that damn house. Toyama takes a look at a security tape at the police department, with Kayako (looking like a faint shadow figure) approaching the camera with those eyes opening among a black mass absorbing the space of the lens; Shimizu is having fun here with the visual gimmicks. Even with two cops together in the house, Kayako is too much for them. That drone, the bones crackling, and the dead eyes; Kayako crawls towards her prey with them seemingly unable to even move most of the time, much less flee. 

Izumi was dared by her schoolmates to go into the cursed house, for which she does. Big mistake. The three girls she was with vanish, and Izumi holes up in her home (as her father, Toyama, did), but this decision (two of her other friends visit, realizing their pal is living in abject fear) doesn’t halt Kayako and those she turned into ghouls to follow her lead in incorporating others into oblivion.

The film returns to Rika, as she undergoes gradual torment by Toshio and Kayako…and cats (this scene, framed as a nightmare, is rather cheesy). Mariko, her sister, is soon involved inadvertently when she comes across Toshio, also finding herself in the cursed house. It isn’t long before Takeo emerges and Rika is face to face with the very cause of it all.

It is just accepted that this Japanese version of Shimizu’s The Grudge will be compared to the Gellar American Hollywood-ized version which had a lot more budget where he could afford more elaborate special effects (and still bring back scenes like when Kayako’s hand creeps up Rika’s hair while she showers and shot-for-shot almost the opening scenes in the home, occupied by new owners; except in the 2004 version, Americans are the unfortunate new owners) while staying true to the film that brought him recognition. I went and seen the 2004 version, remembering feeling it was okay. This version is episodic but seems to link all its individual chapters back to the house adequately. I might personally like Ringu—essentially this film’s relative success—a bit more, but Shimizu did enough to mix things up creatively using his ghouls to spook the various characters who simply couldn’t escape the curse coming for them. Logic holes aside (what exactly does Kayako do to the victims? Where do they go?), the film helped to carry the torch with the likes of Ringu and One Missed Call in introducing the onryō into pop culture. I’m the first to say there are better Asian horrors that were out before, during, and after Ju-on, but it is a standard bearer just the same. Great Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Chinese horrors need the catalysts to make the way: Ju-on and Ringu did that. Eventually, though, Hollywood wanted to make some money off of them, with results like One Missed Call, a 2008 abomination that made Miike’s film look like a masterclass in filmmaking (it wasn’t too bad a little film, certainly better than the excremental piece of shit that got dumped into theaters, becoming a death knell into the fun movement of Asian imports flooding the marketplace due to demand but buried under the weight of American remake stinkers trying to ape their success).
















Monday, October 24, 2016

Burial Ground


* (add stars to this if you like your movies dubbed atrociously with dialogue that could only have been distorted from the original script, and logic lapses quite severe)


“You’re getting a raise, but it has nothing to do with money.”

When I watch these movies, I have to figure something gets lost in translation when Italian horror films are dubbed for American audiences. One character calls his wife a nice looking whore when dresses in lingerie for him! There’s an inexplicable scene where lights bulbs go on and off and start to explode! Why??? What does that have to do with the undead arriving at a professor’s castle to embark on a feeding frenzy? I think those assembling the script and set pieces just said, “Fuck it.” I honestly do. Case in point: the film goes out of its way to establish where the dead come from, as the professor follows research to a crypt, pulls out the hammer to open it, and the dead just surround him and attack. So we get a clear, cut reason of where they come from. Then the film decides to just let a zombie just emerge from under the earth and crawl up to a couple making out (photographer and his lover model), looking to do some “necking” itself. Get this: a zombie with no eyes (!!!) is able to toss a knife and stab a maid in a balcony from several feet away as if a circus act performer! Oh, and as she just stands there with the knife in her hand, another zombie (very, very, very slowly) cuts her head off with a scythe! Not to let this set piece end there, director Bianci lets his camera sit on her neck wound (absent head) gushing blood. Not to be denied, the director has shot gun blasts exploding zombie heads, zombies forming the horde around bodies and tearing away at torsos for [very] bloody organs to munch on, zombies picking up weapons (ax, pickaxe, rake, and scythe) so they can take down locked doors (or using them on victims if given the chance), and zombies set on fire. You get a lot of close-ups by Bianci on the rotted faces of zombies (Bianci just can’t get enough of that) and their boney hands reaching (they all walk like Glenn Strange’s Frankenstein’s Monster) out for humans to detain. It goes the typical siege route with the humans who gathered at the professor’s château holing up and hoping to wait the zombies out (like that’s going to happen, eh?), but these ghouls are a determined lot…they want their bloody meat. All the while, Bianci has this unnerving synth score with all these weird sounds and bizarre melodies. And Peter Bark, the boy-man with the most marvelously cheesy voice-over next to that blonde kid in the Fulci 80s movies. Hell, you even have a zombie climbing up the château wall to get at a window!
 
What has ultimately brought this film infamy is the obvious son-mommy love that just kind of happens. It is one of those surreal moments in an Italian film that begs to question: what brought this on to begin with? Seriously, someone coming up with the script decided that it would be a good idea to include mommy and her boy leaving the scene of a human survival of a zombie onslaught by getting nice and close, embracing with groping and kissing! Gah! Eventually mommy tells her son to quit touching her inappropriately and he scurries away disappointed!


Then, in one of my inexplicable moments, a victim of the zombies (she’s not bitten; her head is pulled into a broken window by a zombie) just rises up as a zombie herself. It goes right along with the zombie who was buried in the courtyard and another that had a crypt near the château’s flower garden…the script just wants these scenes to exist and makes them so.











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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 ...